Wednesday, June 16, 2010 | 11:40 a.m.
People are trusting. very trusting. Just ask Metro financial-crimes detectives, who investigate fraud, forgery and identity theft. It’s sheep and wolves out there, friends. Crack one racket, another con pops up. Most involve computers or credit cards—but that’s just the modern medium. At their core, scams come down to trust. Within the problem, then, lies the solution: Trust no one. Think twice.
Consider these current scams, pulled from the files of Metro detectives:
BUYING BANK ACCOUNTS In this scam, the victim is convinced to “sell” their bank account. Yes, this happens. A con artist claims that, for some reason, they cannot open their own bank account, and offers the victim cash to use theirs. The victim hands over his account information, and the scam artist quickly starts depositing bad (and often forged) checks in to the account, withdrawing money before the checks bounce. One Vegas crook was recently able to deposit and then extract $27,000 from a victim’s account, vanishing before the bank came calling.
PRE-PAID CREDIT CARD “PUSHING” A guy posing as a European businessman walks into a clothing store, picks $25,000 in merchandise, and hands over a pre-paid credit card at the register. When the card is declined, the businessman says it’s an error. Wooed by a huge sale, employees call the 800 number on the card, and are assured by a card representative (really a co-conspirator waiting for his purchased 800 number to ring) that the businessman has scads of money. Satisfied, employees “push” the transaction through, overriding the credit denial and forcing the sale. Entire Vegas businesses have been shut down this way, detectives say.
SHOULDER SURFING Crooks hover behind people using debit cards to catch punched PIN numbers. Armed with the pin number, they pickpocket the card and start using it—and because they’re using your secret PIN, detectives say, it can be hard to insist the transactions are fraudulent. In one case, women got a man’s PIN number, stole his card, then went to a grocery self-check out, where they bought endless small items to get thousands in cash back: Pack of gum, $200 back. Soda, $200 back. So guard your pin, detectives say, and consider using a credit card, which makes disputing charges easier. And check your accounts—you can get free annual reports from all three credit reporting agencies.
SHAM ONLINE SALES People shopping on Internet classifieds, like Craigslist, are conned all the time, detectives say. Most recently, locals have been duped purchasing washers, driers and dishwashers. The buyer meets the online seller, who kindly loads the heavy appliances into the buyer’s car. Once home the buyer discovers their washer is just a shell, with no mechanical parts inside. Like many scams, it’s a crime detectives say could be avoided if people asked more questions, and guarded their trust.