Fed up with fraud? With scams? With identity theft?
So is the State of New Jersey, which has just launched an initiative called “Fighting Fraud,” a series of consumer education seminars that will be held in each of N.J.’s 21 counties during the coming year.
The aim is to help New Jerseyans recognize and prevent fraud before falling victim.
From the IRS phone scam, to lottery and sweepstakes frauds and the so-called “grandparent scam,” the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs reports that criminal scamsters appear to be more active than ever, preying on potential victims in our state through phone calls, emails and other means.
“Today’s con artists combine new technologies with the same old psychological tricks, to get otherwise alert victims to lower their defenses and fall prey to a bogus story,” N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a press release announcing the initiative last week. “Unfortunately, too many people learn that they were conned the hard way — after losing thousands of dollars or becoming victims of identity theft,” Hoffman added.
Steve C. Lee, director of Consumer Affairs, noted, “New Jerseyans can protect themselves simply by being aware that these frauds are out there, and by refusing to send money or personal information to anyone without taking time to stop, think, and verify whether the person contacting them is legitimate.”
The “Fighting Fraud” presentations will include law enforcement footage of an overseas “boiler room” that was the heart of a multimillion- dollar lottery and telemarketing scam. The footage shows now-convicted fraudsters speaking by phone with an undercover FBI agent and an actual victim, seeking to coerce them into sending a money order to claim their “winnings” from a nonexistent sweepstakes.
The seminars also will touch on the various techniques that scammers use to trick their victims into sending money or providing personal information; the proliferation of phone-based scams as well as phishing scams that seek personal info via email or other electronic messages; and the basic steps you should take to protect yourself.
Some advice from the state:
• Never send money, give away personal or financial information, or click on a link or attachment, without first independently verifying the information. Use another source to find a separate phone number for the person or entity that supposedly sent the communication, in order to ensure it was genuine.
• Never act without thinking. This is true especially when dealing with a sales pitch or a threat that says, “You must act right away.” And even more so if the consumer is told, “Keep this confidential and don’t tell anyone about this deal.”
Just as with the “grandparent scam” — in which callers target senior citizens claiming that a grandchild or other relative is in trouble and needs cash immediately — con artists try to create a false sense of urgency and a need for secrecy. They know consumers are much more likely to become victims if their emotions are higher and if they are prevented from discussing the scam with a friend or relative. The seminars will be held through 2015. The full seminar calendar, with sites, dates and times, can be found at: www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/outreach.
Additional information about fraud prevention can be found on the division’s website, where you can access the FedUp Handbook, Consumer Briefs and Cyber Safe NJ.
– Karen Zautyk