Office Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through FridayPhone: 239-252-0069 or Fraud Hotline 239-252-2255
After hours: call 239-252-9300 for assistance
Remember, it’s your money. The best investor is an informed investor. Do your homework before investing. Be wary of products you do not fully understand.
You can verify a contractor or business is licensed by checking with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at the Florida Licensing Portal.
You can also visit the Federal Trade Commission web-site to learn more
Identity Theft Prevention
- Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus
Secure Your Identity flier
- You are entitled to a free copy from each bureau once a year.
- To order a copy of your credit report, go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com
- To order over the phone, call 1-877-322-8228
- Reconcile your check and credit card statements in a timely fashion and challenge any purchases that you did not make
- Limit the number of credit cards you have to reduce exposure, and cancel any inactive accounts
- Destroy all unused pre-approved credit card and loan applications. The mailbox thief only has to fill them out and redirect the return address to start using your credit
- Never give any important number out like from your drivers license, credit card, bank account, date of birth or social security number to anyone you don’t know over the telephone
- Minimize exposure of your drivers’ license number, date of birth, social security number, and credit card numbers. If the numbers are requested for check cashing purposes, ask if the business has alternative options such as such as using a check-cashing card
- Safeguard your credit, debit, and ATM card receipts and shred them before disposing of them
- Shred your bank statements and any tax documents when you dispose of them
- Before disposal, shred paycheck stubs and W-2 forms that contain your social security number and often your name and address. This is a common way for dumpster divers to obtain important identification
- Scrutinize your utility and subscription bills to make sure the charges are yours
- Destroy all checks immediately when you close a checking account. Destroy or keep in a secure place, any courtesy checks that your bank or credit card company may mail to you
- Memorize your passwords and personal identification (PIN) numbers. Keep your PIN numbers somewhere that only you know
- Don’t give out your PIN or write them on your credit cards or ATM cards
- Keep a list or photocopy all credit and identification cards you carry with you, including front and back, so that you can quickly call the issuers to inform them about missing or stolen cards
- Don't give away too much personal information on your family web site. Full names, date of births, and address is too much information to post. By obtaining your "place-of-birth," the identity thief can possibly get your duplicate birth certificate
- Protect your mother's maiden name, especially when using family tree tracers and genealogy service web sites. Maiden names are often used as passwords to access accounts over the telephone
- Never leave your purse or wallet unattended, at work, at restaurants, at health fitness clubs, in your shopping cart, at church or at social gatherings. Never leave your purse or wallet in open view in your car, even when locked
- Don’t use your home mail box to mail bill payments.
- Shred credit card receipts, credit applications, insurance forms, and anything with your personal information before throwing it in the trash.
- Remove information from your checks, including your Social Security number, phone number, middle name, or driver’s license number.
- Close any credit or billing accounts that you no longer use.
- Review your bank and account statements for unusual charges.
- Know your billing cycles and call the company if there are any problems.
- Use passwords on all of your accounts.
- Avoid using birthdays, your mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Devote time to analyzing privacy concerns.
- Consider how you gather, handle, store and dispose of electronic data and paper information.
- Check your firewalls and audit trails.
- Consider which employees have access to the information.
- Communicate with customers and clients and the public about your policies and what your procedure is when there is a breach of security.
- Only collect the data you need.
- Protect your customers’ credit cards by ensuring them privacy at the checkout counter. Place shields on your terminals and routinely check the equipment to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with and make sure security cameras cannot record the customers as they enter their PINs.
- Check signatures and photo ID when necessary.
- When you upgrade your system, upgrade your security procedures.
Members of our Economic Crimes Unit are available for identity theft presentations to your business, group or organization. Please call 239-252-0069 to request a speaker.
If You Become a VictimGather at least the last 90-days of credit card statements and write a narrative of how you discovered the fraudulent activity
Identity theft may be reported in any Florida police jurisdiction. Get a copy of the police report to encloses in correspondence with credit agencies
Report all stolen cards to the issuers immediately and request that new card numbers.
Always respond to written credit card receipt notifications received in the and include the police report to establish the approximate date you discovered fraudulent activity
Notify your bank in the event that your checks are stolen and request that your account be closed
In order to prove your innocence, be prepared to fill out affidavits of forgeries for banks, credit grantors and recipients of stolen checks or ask them if they will accept the police report. They are joint victims with you and may suffer a financial loss
Be prepared to work with retailers who have been victimized by someone using your name to help mitigate their losses, if necessary
If you know the abuser, report them to the Federal Trade Commission
Go online to social security administration if someone is using your social security number to establish credit or new accounts. If SSN fraud is suspected, call the SSA Hotline: (800) 772-1213
Obtain copies of your credit report periodically to see if there are any unknown credit lines in your name. Credit reports costs less than $10. All three major credit reporting agencies in the United States have toll free telephone numbers. Equifax (888) 532-0179; Experian (800) 311-4769; TransUnion (800) 680-7289. Each agency has a consumer fraud division. Call them.
Report suspected fraud to the credit reporting agencies and request that your account be red flagged with a fraud statement posted at the top of your report to all three credit reporting agencies. This will stop future credit from being issued until you are contacted and will remain in place for seven years or until you cancel the request. These agencies will also help clear up negative information on the reports due to fraud.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office wants to remind the community that scammers are constantly finding new ways to target victims. If you have been victim of a scam you can call CCSO at 239-252-9300
Here are some common scams aimed at separating victims from their money:
Lottery Ticket Scam:This scam usually targets Hispanics. The suspect approaches the victim and says he or she is having trouble cashing in a Florida Lottery ticket due to being in the country illegally. The suspect tells the victim there are fees or taxes that need to be paid up front. At some point a second suspect appears as a third party who overheard the conversation and agrees to give some of the money toward the fees if the victim will give the rest. Once the victim has handed over money the two suspects disappear.
Foreign Lottery:The victim is notified that he or she has won a foreign lottery and must collect the winnings by a certain date. Along with the notification letter is a counterfeit check the victim needs to cash or deposit to cover the “fees” associated with the winnings, which are to be wired to the suspects, usually out of the country.
Secret Shopper:The victim receives a counterfeit money order or cashiers check in the mail and is instructed deposit it into his bank account and then make two or three small purchases to evaluate. The victim is also asked to evaluate companies that wire money (Western Union and Money Gram). The victim is requested to withdraw the remaining money from the deposited counterfeit check and wire those funds, usually to Canada. Within two weeks the money order or cashiers check is returned as counterfeit.
Overpayment:With the economy the way it is people might be inclined to sell items on eBay, craigslist or other online venue. Beware if the “buyer” sends a check greater than the sale amount and asks that the difference be wired to a third party who is arranging shipping. The check will turn out to be counterfeit and the victim will be responsible to the bank for cashing or depositing it.
Bank Examiner/Police Impersonator:This scam usually targets the elderly. The suspect contacts the victim claiming to be either a bank examiner or police officer and asks for the victim’s assistance in catching a crooked bank employee. The suspect asks the victim to withdraw money and turn it over to the suspect as part of a confidential investigation. Once the suspect receives the money he or she disappears.
The suspect requests the victim’s assistance in moving money, usually from Africa to the United States, so the government does not keep it. The victim might be sent a counterfeit check to cover “fees” or be asked to pay the “fees” to get the money transferred.
Circle of Sisters:This scheme, usually targeted at women, calls for invited participants to contribute $5,000 to the circle. The promise is that as participants move closer to the center of the circle they will receive up to $40,000 as new members join. Not only are participants likely to lose the money they contribute to the circle, being affiliated with such schemes is a crime in Florida.
Protect YourselfAs telephone scams continue across the country, the IRS recently put out a new YouTube video with a renewed warning to taxpayers not to be fooled by imposters posing as tax agency representatives. The new Tax Scams video describes some basic tips to help protect taxpayers from tax scams.
These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you.
The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.
The IRS will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.
Additional information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube http://www.youtube.com/irsvideos and Tumblr http://internalrevenueservice.tumblr.com, where people can search “scam” to find all the scam-related posts.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office reminds consumers that placing a freeze on your credit is an option to help reduce being victimized by identity theft. Understanding the process is important when making this decision. Please be informed on the process and what occurs when you place a freeze.
Credit file freezes put a halt to companies requesting to view your credit reports before approving you for a new account.
While current creditors and debt collectors acting on their behalf can still pull your reports, a freeze prevents criminals from opening a new account without your knowledge or permission.
Each credit reporting agency will need to be contacted separately. You will need to provide them with your personal information; name, birthdate, social security number, and more. Each credit reporting agency will issue you a unique PIN that you need to safely store for potential future reference.
Contact for each credit reporting agency is:
Transunion: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze 888-909-8872
Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html 888-397-3742 (888-EXPERIAN)
Equifax: https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/ 800-685-1111
Beware of imposter websites and phone numbers. Many look similar but are actually criminals looking to steal your personal information.
You are also entitled to one free credit report per year through each of the credit reporting agencies. You may order this by contacting:
AnnualCreditReport.Com or calling 877-322-8228
Consider getting a report from each one at different times of the year; allowing you to potentially see fraud quicker.
For further information or questions on credit reports, please contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Hotline at 239-252-CALL (2255) or visit the Federal Trade Commission website at www.FTC.Gov