Beware of Rental Scammers

rental-scamsThe Wichita Falls Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unite has seen a rise in persons becoming victims of rental scams from various websites such as craigslist and HotPad. Though many times the website offers great deals some of those deals can be scammers trying to get your money before you find out.

How Rental Scams Work

Scammers know that finding the right apartment or vacation rental can be hard work, and a seemingly good deal is hard to pass up. They’ve been known to game some vacation rental websites and bulletin boards. The take-away: when you’re looking for a rental, its caveat renter — renter beware.

Being savvy when you’re in search of a rental is well worth the effort. Below are some tips to prevent or at least mitigate the chances of becoming a victim of a rental scam:

They tell you to wire money

This is the surest sign of a scam. There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee. That’s true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.

They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease

It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s for rent, and that it is what was advertised. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.

They say they’re out of the country

But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or an “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Don’t send money to them overseas. If you can’t meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking. What if the rental itself is overseas? Paying with a credit card or through a reputable vacation rental website with its own payment system are your safest bets. If it does not feel right investigate further before sending money or personal information.

If you feel like you have been a victim of theft please contact the Wichita Falls Police Department with all available information at (940)761-7792. On many occasions the Scammer is not from our jurisdiction but with enough information the case may forwarded to the correct location for investigation.

For more information go to: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0079-rental-listing-scams

WFPD Financial Crime Unit Warns of Another SCAM

scam-alert

There has been an increase in fake checks in our area being mailed to victims for various reasons from alleged Secret shopper programs to online fraudulent jobs posted via craigslist.

BEWARE – if someone sends you a check then ask you to wire money directly back to them or someone else after you deposit the check into your account IT IS A SCAM!

The FDIC requires banks to make funds available on cashier’s checks and money orders within 1-5 days, so the scammers are counting on you receiving the funds and going through with the wire transfer before the check or money order has actually cleared the bank. By the time you find out that the check is not legitimate, you are out the money you sent and will be held accountable for the bounced check by your financial institution.

If it sounds to good to be true then it is. Verify the validity of the check and be very cautious when depositing or cashing checks.

For more information visit the follwoing: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/beware-mystery-shopper-scams

WFPD Warns of IRS Scams

scam-alertFinancial scams are on the rise again. Recently there have been several reports of IRS scams demanding payment for alleged owed money. Scammers are calling unsuspecting victims and advising them they have a warrant for their arrest and/or the police are watching their residence planning to make an arrest if they do not pay. This is a scam that targets the elderly and/or unknowing.

Thousands of Dollars are lost each year to IRS Scammers please keep a look out for these false claims. Check on Family members and friends who you think could fall victim and warn them of the dangers of Scammers. Spread the word and protect one another from would be scammers.

If you have questions or to file a claim you can contact the IRS or visit:

https://www.irs.gov/uac/irs-urges-public-to-stay-alert-for-scam-phone-calls

Do not forget you can sign up for the latest scam alerts at:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts

Beware skimmer scam!

pump sealskimmercollageIt’s that time of year again!  With summer drawing to a close, people will be out and about on road trips and last minute family vacations.  Undoubtedly activity at local gas stations will be on the rise.  The increase in activity will also mean more opportunities for criminals to strike.

Gas pump skimmers are a common method crooks use to steal your identity.  Here are a few tips to help you as a consumer avoid or reduce your risk of becoming a victim of a skimmer scam.

First look at the overall condition of the gas pump.  Is there anything attached to it that appears out of place?  Is there more than one card reader?  Any visible wires on the outside of the machine? Is there tape holding objects on the pump?

If you notice anything attached to the outside of the pump that appears out of place or brand new in appearance compared to the pump itself, it could be a skimmer or camera. Some externally placed skimmers will allow the transaction when placed over or near the pump card reader, but will also steal your card information at the same time.

If possible avoid gas pumps that are out of view of the store employee.  These pumps could be more easily compromised with a skimmer device since employees will not be able to see activity around the pump.  Use the pumps that are within view of the employee these may have a reduced risk of being compromised.

Check to see if the pump has a security seal placed on the access door.  If this seal is broken or gone, move on to another pump if possible. It could mean that the pump has been compromised.  If the seal is missing or broken notify the employee immediately.  If you have to use a pump with a broken seal, pay with cash or card inside and notify the employee about the condition of the gas pump.

Use a credit card instead of a debit card if possible.  Many credit cards offer better protection against most types of fraud.  Debit cards immediately withdraw money from your account.  If you have to use a debit card, run it as a credit card so you don’t have to enter a PIN.

Bluetooth skimmers. More advanced skimmers are blue-tooth capable so the crook will not even have to come and get it!  They will simply park nearby and access the blue tooth skimmer through mobile devices such as laptops or smart phones.  Others that are externally attached may have to be retrieved by the crook at some point in time.

Suspicious people.  If you see people hanging around gas pumps or pretending to be maintenance workers, inform the employees or call the police.  It could be nothing or it could be the criminal retrieving stolen information.

Credit/Debit cards. Finally, check your credit/debit cards or gas card statements regularly for any irregularities or unusual charges.  Notify the police and credit card company as soon as possible for the fraudulent charges to protect yourself and your credit.

Beware of skimmers

skimmercollageIt’s that time of year again!  With summer fast approaching, more people will be out and about on road trips and family vacations.  Undoubtedly activity at local gas stations will be on the rise.  The increase in activity will also mean more opportunities for criminals to strike.

Gas pump skimmers are a common method crooks use to steal your identity.  Here are a few tips to help you as a consumer avoid or reduce your risk of becoming a victim of a skimmer scam.

First look at the overall condition of the gas pump.  Is there anything attached to it that appears out of place?  Is there more than one card reader?  Any visible wires on the outside of the machine? Is there tape holding objects on the pump?

If possible avoid gas pumps that are out of view of the store employee.  These pumps could be more easily compromised with a skimmer since employees will not be able to see activity around the pump.  Use the pumps that are within view of the employee these will probably have a reduced risk of being compromised.

Check to see if the pump has a seal placed on the access door.  If this seal is broken or gone, move on to another pump if possible. It could mean that the pump has been compromised.  If the seal is missing or broken notify the employee immediately.

If you notice anything attached to the outside of the pump that appears out of place or brand new in appearance compared to the pump itself, it could be a skimmer or camera  to video your PIN. Externally placed skimmers will allow the transaction when placed over the  pump card reader, but will also steal your information at the same time.

Some skimmers are blue-tooth capable so the crook will not even have to come and get it!  Others that are externally attached may have to be retrieved by the crook at some point in time.

If you see people hanging around gas pumps after business hours or pretending to be maintenance workers, inform the employees or call the police.

Finally, check your credit card or gas card statements regularly for any irregularities or unusual charges.  Just some tips to help everyone enjoy the upcoming summer.

 

BEWARE!  Financial Crimes Unit Warns of Online Banking Scam

 Some of you may have received a bank alert email purportedly from Suntrust bank. This is a phishing scam that has been floating around nationwide since 2004. As long as you’re not a Sun Trust customer and you didn’t follow the links and enter any personal banking information then there’s nothing to worry about with this spam email. However, clicking on the link will more than likely attempt to download a virus on the PC.

This email, which masquerades as an Activity Summary from US bank SunTrust, claims that the recipient’s contact information has been updated. The message states that the recipient can view this supposed update by clicking a link and signing in to his or her account. The message includes the SunTrust logo and message formatting.

However, the email is not from SunTrust. Instead it is an attempt by phishing scammers to trick SunTrust customers into sending their account login details and other personal information to Internet criminals. The scammers hope that some recipients will be panicked into believing that their account has been compromised and therefore follow the link without due forethought.

Those who fall for the trick and click the link will be taken to a bogus website that is virtually identical to the genuine SunTrust login page. Once they provide their user ID and password on the bogus site, they will be taken to a second bogus page that asks for further banking details as well as email account information. All of the information submitted can be collected by scammers and used to hijack bank and email accounts belonging to victims.

This phishing attempt is somewhat more sophisticated than some. Many banks will send an automatic email to customers if account details have been updated so the message may resemble genuine banking messages that the user has received in the past. Moreover, the bogus site even displays a fake data verification message after users enter the requested information in an attempt to make the process seem more legitimate. Finally, victims are automatically redirected to the genuine SunTrust website and shown a message notifying them that have successfully signed out of the banking session. Thus, users may continue to believe that they have successfully verified their account details and may not realize that they have handed their accounts to criminals until it is far too late.

Never click links or open attachments in unsolicited emails purporting to be from your bank, even if the email looks genuine. The safest way is to always login to your online accounts by entering the web address into your browser’s address bar rather than by clicking an email link.

New Phone Scam – BE AWARE!

phone scamOn 08/21/14 the WFPD Financial Crimes Unit was made aware of a widespread telephone scam both in our local area and out of state.  The scam begins with an unsolicited telephone call from an individual claiming to be a representative of the law offices of local attorney Jeff McKnight.  The caller typically identifies himself as Ron Adams who then proceeds to tell citizens that they are suspects in fraud case involving Cash Advance.  The caller then threatens to file criminal charges if money is not repaid in the form of prepaid greendot/vanilla cards.  The common denominator in the calls is the phone number is the same every time and the caller has a heavy accent and speaks broken english.  The phone number is 940-202-9905 and is a known number associated with telephone scams.

 The Wichita Falls Police Department, on behalf of Jeff McKnight, would like to stress to citizens that this scam is in no way associated with the Law Offices of Jeff McKnight.  If anyone receives a call from this number they are encouraged to report it to authorities immediately with the understanding that it is a scam.  Citizens can also educate themselves with regards to telephone scams by googling any suspicous numbers they might receive calls from.

Man Who Victimized Hundreds Sentenced to Prison

jjA man who exploited hundreds of Wichita Falls victims using various financial crimes has been sentenced.

On 08/07/14, at 1530 hrs, Assistant District Attorney Tony Bates presented the multiple fraud cases against Jason Menikheim to Judge Price.  Bates recommended 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections.  After learning of the hundreds of victims and the fraud/thefts committed my Menikheim, Judge Price sentenced him to 12 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. 

The DA’s Office and Judge Price sent a clear message with the sentence on behalf of the victims in these cases.  The WFPD Financial Crimes Unit receives numerous calls monthly from the community asking when something will be done.  As of today, we are happy to report The Jason Menikheim (dba JJs Construction) is no longer a threat to the local community!

Man Arrested At Local Bar For Passing Counterfeit Money

durantOn 08-02-14, WFPD Patrol Officers were dispatched to 3709 Gregory (Whiskeyta) in reference to a forgery.  Upon arrival, Officers were given information that 29 year old Jonathan Durant had given other patrons $100 dollar bills to buy drinks.  Durant would then collect the change from the purchases.  Durant had already left the scene but Officers were told that they could find him at the Old Town Saloon on Callfield.  Officers responded to Old Town and located Durant.  Durant was arrested for Forgery and was found to be in possession of several more counterfeit $100 bills.  He was booked in to the Wichita County Jail.

BEWARE – Scam Alert

Scam Alert 5

The Financial Crimes Unit at Wichita Falls Police Department has been made aware of another emerging scam in the area.  Multiple financial institutions have fallen victim to cash advance schemes.  The suspect(s) attempt to make cash advances on some variation of a credit card (Netspend, Republic Bank of Chicago,etc.).  The suspect(s) make it a point to call their card company in the presence of a teller to obtain a pre-authorization code.  The teller then forces the transaction through using the code provided by the suspect(s).  In the instances brought to the attention of our agency, the card has later been found to be stolen resulting in thousands of dollars lost to fraud.  Thus far we have seen that the suspect(s) are attempting to obtain large amounts in one withdrawal, usually $4000-$5000 dollars.  Investigators have little success obtaining any information from the credit card companies and businesses are advised to use extreme caution before authorizing cash advances, especially to non-members and those with out of state identification.