[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                     March 11, 2011

People advised to beware of advanced-fee scheme offerings

If Fort McCoy community members receive a telephone call, letter or e-mail asking for money up front in return for a dream vacation, a big prize or a big payout, they should be wary and treat the request with proper suspicion, said the Fort McCoy Directorate of Emergency Services Police Department.

It may be a sign of an advanced-fee scheme, whereby a victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value — such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift — and then receives little or nothing in return, said Capt. Rick Jackson of the Fort McCoy Police Department. These contacts may occur at any time, but can be more prevalent at this time of the year as people file their income tax returns and receive refunds.

The variety of advanced-fee schemes is limited only by the imagination of the con artists who offer them, according to information from the FBI website. They may involve the sale of products or services, the offering of investments, lottery winnings, “found money,” or many other “opportunities.”

Clever con artists will offer to find financing arrangements for their clients who pay a “finder’s fee” in advance. They require their clients to sign contracts in which they agree to pay the fee when they are introduced to the financing source. Victims often learn that they are ineligible for financing only after they have paid the “finder” according to the contract. Such agreements may be legal unless it can be shown that the “finder” never had the intention or the ability to provide financing for the victims.

Avoiding schemes
If the offer of an “opportunity” appears too good to be true, it probably is. Follow common business practices. For example, legitimate business rarely is conducted in cash on a street corner.

• Know who you are dealing with. If you have not heard of a person or company that you intend to do business with, learn more about them. Depending on the amount of money that you plan on spending, you may want to visit the business location, check with the Better Business Bureau, or consult with your bank, an attorney, or the police.

• Make sure you fully understand any business agreement that you enter into. If the terms are complex, have them reviewed by a competent attorney.

• Be wary of businesses that operate out of post office boxes or mail drops and do not have a street address. Also be suspicious when dealing with people who do not have a direct telephone line and who are never in when you call, but always return your call later.

• Be wary of business deals that require you to sign nondisclosure or non-circumvention agreements that are designed to prevent you from independently verifying the authentication of the people with whom you intend to do business. Con artists often use non-circumvention agreements to threaten their victims with civil suit, if they report their losses to law enforcement.

Local resources
Bryan Clarkin, Fort McCoy Army Community Service Financial Program manager, said consumers need to be proactive in these cases because there isn’t a lot authorities usually can do to prosecute individual cases.

Consumers can help authorities by reporting suspicious contacts and helping them discern patterns. If the number of people involved in a scam becomes large enough, authorities may decide to prosecute.

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud — especially anyone who divulged personal information or identification — and may become a target of identity theft is encouraged to contact the credit bureaus to place an identity theft hold or freeze on their accounts, Clarkin said. This will help prevent these people from opening up credit card accounts or other financial instruments that could harm individuals both from a monetary and credit standpoint.

Clarkin said he can help authorized members of the Fort McCoy community place identity theft holds or freezes on their credit accounts. He also can provide financial management classes/information about a variety of financial topics. For more information, call him at 608-388-6812/3505.

For more information about advanced-fee crimes, call the Fort McCoy Police Department at 608-388-3921.
For more information about how to file advanced-fee complaints visit the website http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx. If the advanced-fee scheme is from a foreign address, visit the websites https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/ or http://www.secretservice.gov/.

Information about advanced- fee crimes and other financial crimes also can be found at the website http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/fraud#advfee.

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