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If you have been a victim of a scam or fraud don't be embarrassed.  While we are going about our daily lives, criminals work nonstop to develop and tailor scams that will play on our emotions or hit us when we are most vulnerable.  In today's economy when so many are struggling to keep their head above water, many are looking anywhere they can to find a little financial help.  Most important to remember is that if it sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is a scam.  But if you are a victim,  report it immediately to the Sheriff's Office and your bank or credit card company.  Next, tell everyone you know what happened so that they can prevent becoming a victim to the same scam.  You just may be surprised to hear how many other people you know who have fallen victim to a scam, but were too embarrassed to talk about it.   The more these things are shared, the more we can all be aware of what is going on out there, and better protect ourselves.   

Preventing or foiling a scammer's plans is the best way to put an end to these types of crimes.  Because of the international nature of so many of these scams, United States law enforcement agencies are powerless to act.  Often the governments of the countries where these scammers operate are ineffective in dealing with them or possibly complacent about what their citizens are doing.  

If you are unsure of a company or charity you can follow these links to help you determine if they are legitimate:

    Check a Charity verify the legitimacy of a charity through the Missouri Attorney General's Office

    Common Frauds & Scams  - current list kept updated by the FBI

    Fraud Tips for Seniors

You can place your phone number on the Missouri No-Call list to avoid being bothered by telemarketers, or you can file a complaint if you are already on the No-Call list and continue to receive calls from telemarketers:
    Consumer Complaints - file a consumer complaint with the Missouri Attorney General's Office
    Register for Missouri No-Call List

Below are some examples of common scams.  Please check back occasionally to see if there are any new scams you should be aware of in our area.  If you become aware of a scam that is not listed here, please contact the Marshal's Office so that we may add it to the list and inform others in our community.

Job Scam
Some of the "work-from-home" offers you see on signs or places like Craigslist, or even in e-mails your receive can be scams.  The "company" that you are working for, will send you checks to cash and ask that you forward part of the money on to various places.  These fraudulent checks look real, and most likely your bank will accept and cash them for you.  However, a few days later when the check is returned, you will have already sent funds on to other locations that mostly likely cannot be traced.

On-line Purchases
Scammers who make fraudulent purchases using your account information often make them in small amounts because it is less noticeable.  If the amount goes through, they may continue to charge small amounts or make debits from your account so they don't alert you or your lending agency.   Left unchecked, it can add up to big bucks.  Keep track of your on-line account purchases, and review your bank statements and credit card statements each month when they arrive.  Look for purchases you don't recognize, and contact your creditor as soon as you notice any suspicious activity.

Family Member Needs Help
This incredibly simple and mean-spirited scam involves just a phone and a Western Union.  The criminal will target a senior citizen and call him/her.  When the victim answers, the criminal says, "Grandma/Grandpa"?  The victim will then say their grandchild's name to the criminal such as "John, are you ok?",  providing the criminal with a  name.  The criminal may either confirm that they are the grandchild and that they need money, or another person may come on the line and say that "John" has been arrested or is in trouble and needs money now.  If the grandparent questions why their grandchild sounds different, the criminal may say they have a cold or they are upset and scared and have been crying.    The criminal will ask the grandparent to wire money as soon as possible, most likely out of the U.S., in order to help their grandchild.  Once the money has been wired, it is most likely lost forever.  The criminal will stress how important it is that they get the money transferred as soon as possible and not contact anyone.  If you receive a call like this, don't be scared into sending money.  First, attempt to call the relative that you are concerned about, or someone that would know the relative's whereabouts.  Second, notify the Sheriff's Office, and don't send any money.

Bait and Switch
One of the oldest scams around, the criminal advertises an item they have, and after you send them money, you don't get the item, or you get something that is completely different than what you ordered.  Sometimes legitimate companies make mistakes in shipping and can send you the wrong thing.  However, sometimes an individual or a fraudulent company will sell you something they don't even have.  When making an on-line purchase, ask the seller for a new picture of the merchandise with an item you request in the photo.  You could ask them to put a pop can or other object in the photo to confirm that they actually have what they are selling.

Jury Duty Scam
In this scam the victim receives a phone call from someone telling them they failed to appear for jury duty and now there is a warrant out for their arrest.  The caller then may ask the victim to verify his/her name, date of birth, and other personal information.  The caller may tell their victim that if they are willing to pay the fine for failing to appear for jury duty, that they can make the warrant go away.  The victim may be asked to provide a credit card to take care of the fine immediately, or asked to send a money order.  Any personal information obtained during the phone call can then be used to commit identity theft and future fraud against the victim.

Phishing Scams
This is a method used to collect personal information from you like passwords, user i.d.'s, credit card information, etc. The most common way this is done is through e-mails or instant messaging.  You will get an email from a company that says your account has been locked/suspended, or you need to update personal information in your account.  The email will contain a link for you to click on to go to your account. Once you click on the link it will take you to a site that looks legitimate, but it is really a dummy site.  It will look very similar to your Bank's or credit card's website, but it has been set up by a criminal(s).  Once you log in on this site, they will be able to collect your user i.d. and password.  It may ask you to update your credit card information on you've given them access to your credit card account.

The best way to protect yourself from Phishing scams is to NEVER click on a link in an email that is asking you to verify or update any personal information.  You should always log in at the home webpage of the bank or company that holds your account.   

Here are some examples of actual phishing e-mail scams:

□    eBay                                           Questions about Item #5485669854255 - Respond Now                       03/01/2011
□    Federal Bureau of Investigation    You Have won the sum of $1,000,000 - legally                                    05/11/2010
□    Online Pharmacy                         Re: Express Pharmacy message #33658921445584                        04/07/2011                       
□    Bank of America                          Your online Account has been suspended                                             01/05/2012

Look for these telltale signs to spot a phishing scam:
1.  the sender is unknown to you
2.  the e-mail is illiterate with grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors
3.  you are asked to provide information such as account number, phone number or social security number
4.  the e-mail address is odd or doesn't include the business name
5.  the message contains words like "urgent" or "secret"
6.  the e-mail says it is in regards to an item you have for sale, but you aren't currently selling anything on-line

Nigerian Scams (also called 419 scams)
The victim receives an e-mail or letter from someone claiming to be an exiled government official (sometimes a member of the ousted royal family) who has managed to sneak government money out of their country.  The "exiled official" wants you to help by providing a bank account they can transfer money into.  The victim is enticed by the promise of a large monetary reward. Once you provide the information to them, they have complete access to your account and can completely empty out your bank account.

Below are a list of questions to ask yourself when presented with a possible international internet scam.  If you answer "yes" to two or more of the following questions, you are most likely dealing with an international internet scam.

1.  Were you contacted about a possible transaction or deal after listing an item for sale on-line (eBay, Craigslist, etc)
2.  Is someone offering to send you more money than your asking price?
3.  Did you receive an email naming you the "winner" of a foreign lottery?
4.  Have you been asked to use a Western Union, Money Gram, or another wire/money transfer service to make an advanced
      payment or to return excess funds? Have you been asked to forward excess funds to a third party?
5.  Does the transaction involve a cashier's check or money order?
6.  Does your contact say the cashier's check or money order is needed to cover taxes or other fees that must be paid before
      you collect your "winnings"?
7.  Does the person's writing (grammar, punctuation, or spelling) indicate that English is not their native language?
8.  Did you receive a check or money order delivered overnight by UPS, FedEx or any other express shipping service?
9.  Is the person contacting you providing detailed instructions and urging "ASAP" or immediate response?

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