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Don't be "Grinched" this holiday season


FBI Criminal Experts Detail Scams

The last thing anyone needs at this joyous -- and gift-giving -- time of year is to be cheated by con artists of every stripe -- online, offline, and on the other end of your telephone.

That's why a sleighful of FBI Criminal Investigative experts got together today to outline some of the scams these modern-day Grinches may try to pull on you and your loved ones and to offer tips on how you can protect yourselves from becoming victims of fraud this holiday season -- and throughout the year.

"Nearly 2,500 FBI Agents around the country -- and around the world -- are working hard to prevent and catch these con-artists" said Grant Ashley, who heads up the Bureau's Criminal Investigative Division. "Last year, we investigated more than 20,000 fraud cases of all kinds: insurance fraud, telemarketing fraud, securities fraud, health care fraud, and financial institution fraud. Those investigations led to the recovery or restitution of more than $10 billion of fraudulently stolen funds."

Beware of scams like these:

  • Fake credit unions. Con-artists place ads in newspapers for non-existent credit unions offering hassle-free loans if you wire them a fee of $1,500. Or they have you fill out a loan application and then steal your personal information.
  • Debt or mortgage elimination offers. The perpetrators of these schemes offer to take advantage of "loopholes in the system" that will eliminate your entire mortgage for an up-front fee. Don't believe it. There are no loopholes.
  • Phony lotteries. Scam-artists will notify you that you've won a lottery, but you must send them some money to receive your winnings. Sad fact: there is no lottery and you never receive a prize.

Protect yourself ... and report possible crimes.

If you come across anyone attempting these or other suspicious activities, please report them to your local FBI office or police department.

A few simple precautions can help keep you from being Grinched:
-- Never give personal information over the telephone, mail, or Internet unless you initiated the contact.
-- Shred credit card receipts and old financial statements.
-- Protect PIN numbers and passwords.
-- Carry a minimum amount of identifying information.

-- Do not wire money to strangers.

"Fraud can happen anywhere," said AD Ashley, "on the street, at your front door, on the telephone or on the computer. The best thing individuals can do is be aware. If a deal looks like it's too good to be true -- it probably is."

For more information -- and more details on the full range of fraudulent schemes, visit the Internet Crime Complaint Center or our White Collar Crime page.

Related Link: The Press Release