Constant vigilance is needed to fight fraud and identity theft, said local law enforcement officers and government officials Monday as they urged people to protect themselves from con artists.
“Fraud comes in many forms, and any one of us can be a target,” said Spokane Postmaster Ed Schierberl.
The push is part of National Consumer Protection Week.
Two prevalent scams right now target different types of victims.
In one, criminals befriend people over the Internet, convincing their victims that they are in serious relationships, said U.S. Postal Inspector France Bega.
The scammers then tell their victims to accept shipments, repackage them and forward them to other addresses.
The goods are purchased with stolen credit cards. “They prey on the needs of the lonely and elderly,” said Bega.
Another scam targets college students.
They are befriended by people who persuade them to turn over ATM cards and PINs.
The con artists then deposit counterfeit and stolen checks into the students’ ATM accounts and make withdrawals, said Spokane police Detective Stacey Carr.
When police come knocking, the student usually claims the card was stolen, said Carr, who pointed out that PINs aren’t stolen, they’re given.
“What they don’t realize is we will prosecute the student for giving away the card and the number,” she said.
In addition to protecting purses and documents, people need to be aware of who is around them when they use a credit or debit card, said Kimberly La Liberte, of Progressions Credit Union.
“People are using their cell phones now to take pictures of your credit card and debit card numbers. They’re even using video to record you entering your PIN number,” La Liberte said.
Businesses must also be on the lookout for criminals seeking to steal identities, said Jan Quintrall, of the local Better Business Bureau.
Quintrall said she was amazed at a recent shredding event to see businesses bringing boxes of documents to be shredded, meaning that information had been vulnerable for months.
Businesses should regularly shred documents with customers’ and employees’ personal information and keep any necessary information in locked storage, she said.