Monday, June 18, 2012

Scams- What You Need to Know and How to Avoid Them

It seems that a new scam is always popping up in the news. Although seniors are the No. 1 target for scammers, it is almost impossible for anyone to go more than a week without encountering a too-good-to-be-true offer or strange email. Whether it is an email scam (Help! I am stuck in a foreign  country and need money!), a door-to-door scam (I'd like to sell you something for a steal of a deal), a parking lot scam (Hey ... weren't you just here yesterday looking for gas money?), or a telemarketing scam, the options to be scammed are seemingly endless.

As the weather cools off, people are leaving their doors and windows open for air; they are outdoors more, opening themselves up for more neighborhood activity; and are taking more vacations, leaving homes unoccupied and themselves wide open for scams.

Las Vegas Security Company and the National Crime Prevention Council offer advice to keep residents safe this summer.

What may seem like harmless posts on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can increase your chances of becoming a victim of a property crime this summer, according to the National Crime Prevention Council and Signal 88 Security, a private security company serving the Las Vegas community.

FBI data gathered from 2005-2009 shows that the months of May-September consistently have the highest percentage of property crime, identified as burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft. Property crimes rise 9 percent during these summer months – the highest percentage in the calendar year.

What makes property crime hot during the summer? According to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), social media plays a key role among other factors.

“People don’t think twice about sharing their vacation plans via social media sites,” said Michelle Boykins, director of communications for the NCPC. “By broadcasting over the internet that you’re going to be away from your home, you’re potentially opening the door to criminal activity.”

Ty Hughes, director of business performance for the Signal 88 Security franchise office serving Las Vegas, agrees with the NCPC’s assessment.

“Even if you’re selective about who you communicate with online, there are still vulnerabilities,” said Hughes. “People outside of your immediate network may have the ability to access your posts, leaving your property susceptible to crime while you’re away from your home or business.”

In addition to social media, additional factors contribute to summer’s rise in crime.

“Summertime means people are out and about in ways they aren’t typically during the winter months,” said Boykins. “People may leave windows open, expensive outdoor equipment in the yard or visible through an open garage. Criminals are on the look-out for these kinds of easy targets and may seize the opportunity to commit a crime.”

“We see an increase in crime during the summer months,” said Hughes. “With school out, kids may have less structured activities to occupy their time. We see a correlation between this and an increase in crimes such as vandalism and theft at homes, businesses, apartment complexes, shopping centers and more.”

To combat the summer spike in crime, the NCPC and Signal 88 developed the Safe Summer online public education program, featuring practical advice for protecting your property during the summer months. Resources specific to homeowners, apartment dwellers, summer vacationers and business owners are available to supplement regular security strategies.

“One of the most valuable tips we can offer during the summertime is to stay vigilant,” said Hughes. “Double-check that windows and doors are secured, don’t leave valuables in plain sight outdoors and look out for your neighbors.”

Boykins agrees, “Develop a neighborhood plan this summer,” she says. “Your neighbors are your eyes and ears while you’re away, so make sure they’re aware of your plans and report any unusual or suspicious activity.”

“Although summertime naturally lends itself to an increase in crime, there’s no reason you have to become a statistic,” said Signal 88’s Hughes.

The Safe Summer program tips are available for free download at www.signal88.com/safesummer.aspx. The program will be featured in more than 70 communities around the country via the Signal 88 Security franchise network. For additional information about Signal 88 Security, visit www.signal88security.com.


Here are some additional safety tips and resources to keep yourself and loved ones safe from scams:

-Be aware of your surroundings: Check parking lots for strange activity; keep your keys in-hand and ready to unlock your car; don't fumble looking for your keys while at your car; keep purses and wallets closed and in your sight at all times.

-Never give out personal information to untrusted sources: Do not email bank account information; do not wire money to anyone without first checking to see if they are really in danger (the friend who says they are stuck in Spain may really be at home and not across the world); do not give our accounts or credit card numbers to anyone.

Some tips from the National Crime Prevention Council:
  • Offers too good to be true usually are. Ask to receive the “unbelievable deal” or the “amazing prize offer” in writing so you can read it carefully before making a commitment.
  • Never give out your personal information over the phone or Internet unless you have initiated the contact. Legitimate business callers will never ask you for this information over the phone.
  • If a caller asks you to pay for an offer in advance or asks for your credit card number or Social Security number, tell the person you don’t give out personal information over the telephone.
  • Remember that legitimate telemarketers won’t be turned off if you use these techniques. They will appreciate dealing with an educated consumer. It’s not rude – it’s shrewd!
If you feel that you are a victim of a scamming crime, contact the Attorney General's Office to report the scam.

Carson City Office:
Office of the Attorney General
100 North Carson Street
Carson City, Nevada 89701-4717
(775) 684-1100
Fax - (775) 684-1108

Reno Office:
Office of the Attorney General
5420 Kietzke Lane Suite 202
Reno, Nevada 89511
(775) 688-1818
Fax - (775) 688-1822

Las Vegas Office:
Office of the Attorney General
Grant Sawyer Bldg.
555 E. Washington Ave Suite 3900
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
(702) 486-3420
Fax - (702) 486-3768 

Resources:

http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors

www.ncpc.org/newsroom/current-campaigns/senior-fraud

http://www.seniorscamscreen.org/

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