Being a responsible consumer in the year 2019 means educating yourself—not just on the products and services—but of the ways scammers and thieves exploit consumer behavior for their own financial gain. As technology advances with the convenience of SMS text messaging as a security feature, financial applications that put your finances at your fingertips, and the tangled world wide web, consumer fraud scams will only continue to mutate and evolve. Here are five of the most common types of consumer fraud scams to avoid in 2019.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Financial Fraud Unit, mortgage fraud exploits a consumer’s fear of losing their home to make a quick buck. Mortgage fraud schemes come in many forms, including but not limited to equity skimming, loan modifications, and foreclosure rescue schemes. The perpetrators behind these schemes are often former real estate professionals who use their intimate knowledge of mortgages to swindle homeowners in distress. Real estate agents who are currently employed can exploit their authority to bolster the validity of their scheme. The FBI and FTC advise that consumers should be wary of any unsolicited phone calls, emails, regarding their home finances, and never sign any paperwork or documentation that they do not fully comprehend.
Debit Card Fraud
Debit card fraud occurs when an individual’s debit card information is obtained to make fraudulent purchases. Debit card fraud is one of the most difficult schemes to avoid in day-to-day life, because so many Americans have gradually transitioned from carrying cash to carrying only their debit card as means of legal tender. Anyone with access to the debit card’s information—including the businesses and vendors we trust every day—can pull this information to commit a fraud. Unfortunately, the only recourse consumers have in protecting themselves is to avoid letting their card ever leave their sight, and to keep a watchful eye on their accounts and report any suspicious activity.
Perhaps one of the most despicable types of consumer fraud is charity fraud. Scammers set up shell organizations to receive donations that do not go to those in need, but rather line the scammer’s pockets. Frauds of these type spike significantly during the holidays and in the wake of natural disasters in order to exploit humankind’s benevolence. The name of the game with charities is research. Any charity worth its salt is going to stand up to a great deal of due-diligence and fact-finding. Part of being a responsible consumer is knowing where your money is going.
Winning the lottery is a dream of many Americans, with fantasies of kicking back and never having to put in another hard day’s work for the rest of their lives. Despite the wide range of demographics with these dreams, lottery fraud scams usually effect senior citizens in the United States. The scam usually begins with a letter or email letting the individual know they have won. The correspondence usually includes details about fees that are involved with receiving their winnings. The FTC warns that individuals who have won a legitimate lottery prize of any kind should never have to pay a fee to collect their winnings, and consumers should be suspect of any unsolicited correspondence stating as such. Consumers should also be advised that United States law does not support the sale and transference of international lottery tickets, so any correspondence from international lotteries is most certainly a scam.
Studies by Javelin Strategy & Research conducted over the last seven years indicate that in 2017, there were as many as 16.7 million Americans impacted by identity fraud, with $16.8 million in stolen funds and assets. Identity theft can be committed for a number of reasons. Perpetrators can steal an individual’s information with the purpose of starting over again under a different name, or to escape their creditors. Most commonly, however, identity fraud is simply committed with the explicit purpose of stealing money from American consumers. Once a scammer has an individual’s identifying information, like dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and their mother’s maiden name, they can use that data to make fraudulent purchases in the victim’s name, withdraw funds from their bank accounts, and destroy their credit, leaving them financially arrested. The aftermath of identity fraud is devastating and can cause shockwaves across decades with exponential consequences.
If you have been the victim of a consumer fraud scam, contact a private investigator today to learn how their unique set of skills and professional autonomy can help you locate the scammer in your midst. Call Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation (317-951-1100) and a simple solution to your consumer crisis.
Carie McMichael is the Media and Communications Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on investigation, fraud, and missing persons topics. For more information, please visit our website.
Indianapolis, Indiana is home to many impressive things. The city of over 800,000 is most famous throughout the country as home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Indianapolis 500. In addition to a rich visual and performing arts culture, it’s also home to the nation’s largest children’s museum. Families across the United States cheer for one of two major sports franchises based in Indianapolis: the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, and the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. It’s also home to one of the country’s best private investigators.
Family-owned and operated for more than 30 years, Lauth Investigations International has specialized in complex corporate, financial, and private investigations worldwide. It is one of many private investigation firms based in Indiana’s capital. Given recent crime data, Indianapolis is a city where a well of clientele may never run dry. One of the areas of criminal investigation most associated with private investigators is missing persons and violent crime, so it’s no a wonder why so many private investigators have set up shop in Indianapolis, with violent crime on the rise.
Relative to its size and population, Indianapolis is comparable to Portland, Oregon or Charlotte, North Carolina. Portland has a crime rate of 227 per every 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average crime rate. North Carolina experiences a higher than average crime rate of 441 per every 100,000 people. As of 2016, Indianapolis’ reported crime rate was 823.2 per every 100,000 people. A CBS News report ranking dangerous cities placed Indianapolis as the 12th in the nation, citing the violent crime rate at more than three times the national average.
News media is saturated with headlines concerning violent crimes committed against Hoosiers, so it was a surprise to most when the FBI reported crime was actually down 10% from 2016 to 2017, especially burglaries and robberies which were down 17%. Violence—especially gun violence—however, is climbing. As of October 1st, 2018, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had investigated 127 homicides and 109 murders, with 12% of those cases attributed to robbery. The recent murder of Tykece Mike-Jones is a tragic example. He was killed over a cell phone he was attempting to sell to a person he contacted through the internet—another in a string of killings IMPD has been putting on blast to warn citizens. According to the FBI, 2017 was the third record-breaking year for crime statistics in Indianapolis, and stats from the first half of this year have projected 2018 will be no different. Law enforcement attributes the overall drop in crime to the increased ubiquity of surveillance cameras in the metropolitan area.
Firms like Lauth Investigations International can assist in many types of criminal investigation. Just as in the case of violent crimes, private investigators combine the skills of law enforcement and the autonomy of a private citizen to conduct concurrent or independent investigations into a person who vanishes under any circumstances. But not all missing persons cases are the result of a person meeting a violent end. As “the crossroads of America,” Indianapolis experiences a moderate to high level of human trafficking. One of the most complex issues in human trafficking is tracking traffickers across multiple jurisdictions as they transport victims from city to city. Law enforcement can often be handcuffed by jurisdictional issues, but private investigators use their autonomy to pole vault over this red tape in pursuit of leads that might otherwise go cold. Due to his experience in complex missing persons investigations, private investigator, Thomas Lauth has worked with Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Consulate and other foreign embassies on a myriad of cases, including human trafficking.
Indianapolis private investigators are not limited to cases of violent crime and missing persons, however. Every major metropolitan area will always have cases dealing with infidelity or child custody, but private investigators based in Indianapolis have ample opportunity to service local businesses with their skill-set. Indianapolis is home to a diversified body of businesses, but its five top industries are:
- Real estate
Many business owners—especially small business owners—often are not aware of how a private investigator’s services can protect, or even save, their companies. Every business needs valued employees, and finding the right person can often be an arduous task. The candidate might be qualified, but how much about their record can be independently verified? Hiring a private investigator to do background checks for employees will ensure that any verification of their qualifications will be vetted. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many employers are making independent background checks a regular step of their hiring process in order to weed out potential predators in their workforce. All types of business can experience the full spectrum of employee theft (from vanishing office supplies to full-on embezzlement), violation of non-compete agreements, and offenses under the umbrella of employee malingering, including FMLA abuse. The independent involvement of a private investigator in the investigation of any employee misconduct will lay a strong foundation for any HR or legal consequences, ensuring that the investigation is thorough and objective from beginning to end. Kristen Justis, the Managing Director of Client Relations for Lauth Investigations International, commented on the role Lauth can play in bolstering local business, “We have a wealth of opportunities to help private citizens every day. We help frantic parents find their missing child, or put a spouse’s suspicions of infidelity at ease, but those are the cases that sensationalize this industry. Many business owners are not aware of how the services we offer can go a long way towards extending the longevity of their businesses.”
Every major industry operating in Indianapolis can rely on the services of a private investigator to protect their business—not just from its own workforce, but potential consumers as well. Finance, insurance, and real estate of all kinds can benefit from a comprehensive vetting of a consumer after their request for services. Financial institutions and insurance brokers may check a consumer’s credit, but a full background check on an applicant can sharpen the big picture when making a cost-benefit analysis regarding any transaction. In the housing industry, any landlord renting or leasing their property can be fully informed about their tenants when they employ a private investigator to run a background check. An analysis of Indianapolis’s economy by the Indianapolis Business Journal concluded that the apartment booms the city experienced were driven largely by empty-nesters and childless millennials, projecting that it would only continue to grow.
Indianapolis already has a national economical reputation for developing and sustaining niche markets, such as the market around motorsports and auto-racing. As the metropolis continues to grow in population and economy, so will the opportunities for Indy-based private investigators to support their community.
Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on missing person and investigation topics. For more information, please visit our website.