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Fraud, Identity Theft and Scam Prevention

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Please use these resources to help identify a scam, and to know what to do if you are a victim of fraud, identity theft, or a scam.

Are you a victim of Fraud, Identity Theft or a Scam?

Victims often have their personal information stolen and illegally used to:

  • Obtain a driver’s license, social security card and other government ID’s
  • Establish bank accounts
  • Obtain employment
  • Open credit cards
  • Obtain loans
  • File fraudulent tax returns
  • Receive medical treatment

If you are the victim of identity theft:

  • Contact the Harrisonburg Police Department at 540-434-4436 to file a police report
  • Call the companies where you know fraud occurred to close or freeze accounts
  • Place a fraud alert by contacting any of the three credit bureaus

Equifax – 1-800-685-1111
Experian – 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion – 1-800-888-4213

Other resources
Report Suspected Tax Fraud
Report Social Security Fraud

Beware of scams:
Criminals will target victims by phone, email, mail and other creative methods including social media and even through apps.  Victims can be out a substantial amount of money before they realize they were scammed and getting money back is extremely difficult.

Some of the most common scams include:

  • Posing as a representative of a government agency (i.e. Social Security Administration, Courts, Law Enforcement).
    • The scammer will call to “verify” your personal information and trick you into providing your information to them.  Others will say you have outstanding criminal charges and they convince you into paying a sum of money through gift cards in order to avoid arrest or to pay bail money for a relative that was recently arrested.
  • Winning money or prizes.
    • You should be very skeptical if you’re randomly notified that you’ve won something you never entered to win.  Some scammers will even pose as legit companies such as Publisher’s Clearinghouse or even the local state lottery commission.  If you’re asked to send money or pay “fees” with gift cards don't do it.
  • Computer virus/Phishing. 
    • Never allow a random caller access to your computer for “repairs.”  Only allow a verified source, typically one that you initiate contact, to remote into your computer for service, repairs and assistance.  Also, be cautious with email.  Don’t click on links or download attachments from recipients you don’t know.  Once the scammer has access into your computer, they can view all of your files and obtain username and passwords for sensitive sites including your credit cards and bank accounts.
  • Check cashing. 
    • Some scammers will mail you a check and ask you to cash it, send most of it back to them or to someone else but keep a small portion for yourself as sort of a fee for your troubles.  Sounds good, right?  Unfortunately, it may take a while for the check to clear and once it comes back fraudulent, the bank will demand their money back but by then your money is gone.
  • Romantic relationships. 
    • Have you met the person of your dreams online or through an app?  Do they have something that comes up last minute so they can’t meet you in person, but they ask for money, gifts, gift cards and other items?  Be cautious!  You may be getting used.
  • Lower interest rates. 
    • So, you get a phone call saying they can lower the interest rate on your credit card, auto loan or other debt.  Don’t get tricked into “verifying” your personal information.  If the company is legit, they should have your information on file.  If you don’t own a vehicle or don’t have that particular credit card, that should be your first clue that something is wrong!

If you are the victim of a scam:

  • If you believe you’ve been scammed, contact the Harrisonburg Police Department at 540-434-4436 to file a report with an officer.
  • If your personal information has been compromised you should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.identitytheft.gov.

Other resources:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a great resource to report scams and to learn about other ways people are being scammed.