About Fraud

Fraud: someone fools or tricks ("intentionally deceives" or "scams") you into giving them something.

Frauds have increased dramatically in the last few years, and are now probably the most common crime in our community.

HPD -- as well as other police departments across the country -- confirm that Fraud is on the increase. HPD's "white collar crime" unit is handling twice as many Frauds this year than last year. And most of those Frauds are Internet Fraud and/or Identity Theft.

If what they want is simply money, they will always want it in advance (to pay "fees", "taxes" or whatever) before delivering anything (which never happens). That's "Advance Fee" fraud, which is probably as old as money itself.

Modern variations involve our modern equivalents to money; checks, or more often, credit care information.

Several kinds of Fraud take advantage of US banking laws. The scammer sends you a check (usually from an out-of-country bank) and tells you to send some of the money elsewhere and keep some for yourself. The catch: US banks are required to provide funds from deposited checks within five working days. Which will fool you into thinking the check has "cleared". The actual "clearing" usually takes longer (7-10 days, or up to a month with foreign banks). Your bank can't determine until then if the check is a forgery; but when the do, they will promptly remove the funds from your account.

In this scam (and some others as well), the scammer will insist on being paid by way of a "wire transfer", Western Union money transfer, MoneyGram, "cash card", or some other unusual payment method which will quickly, irreversibly and untraceably get the money to them.. Be suspicious about any deal which uses an unusual payment scheme!

Often, what they want will not be money or a check, but your credit card number, or access to your to bank account, or one of your on-line accounts... or access to your computer.

If someone can collect enough of your personal information (name, address, birth date, social security number, etc.) -- by fraudulent means or not -- they can commit "Identity Theft" (ID theft).

Common Frauds

Scammers can show up at your door. At least some door-to-door sales are frauds (promise more than they can deliver, perhaps offering fraudulent financing as well). Door-to-door Charity Fraud is also common.

Along with all the other "junk mail" you get, there will be some offers "too good to be true". In other words, Mail Fraud, although that's in decline in favor of phone and Internet fraud.

Calling you on your phone is easy for scammers (or at least those with convincing "phone voices"). Sooner or later you will be exposed to Phone Fraud.

Rarely, but unexpectedly, you could be involved in a Staged Accident on the road.

But the most common Frauds these days are any of the many types of Internet Fraud.

Identity Theft (ID Theft) happens when someone learns enough of your personal information to impersonate you. It's the ultimate fraud. Besides being able to access your existing bank and other accounts, they can -- and usually will -- fool banks and other organizations into creating new accounts in your name. Ruining your credit rating in the process. In some cases, ID Theft can lead to you being accused of a crime or even being arrested for a crime you did not commit.