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Defend Yourself Against Fraud

As part of our ongoing effort to keep you informed about criminal threats to your finances, LACERA regularly publishes warnings about financial scams, identity theft, and other schemes that could hurt your pocketbook. Be sure to check this section regularly for the latest alerts, so that you can spot and defend yourself against those who seek to steal your hard-earned money or take advantage of your access to credit.

The slogan "Defend yorself against fraud" over an image of a dollar bill.

Latest Alerts from the D.A.’S Office

Don’t get scammed! Twice a month, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office releases a public service announcement (PSA) called the Friday Fraud Alert to warn the community about current financial scams (some perennial, some seasonal or tied to current events).

The PSAs include videos with District Attorney staff, and many focus on scams targeted specifically toward older adults. According to the D.A., one in five seniors has been the victim of financial fraud. The Elder Abuse section of the D.A.’s website includes a Financial Fraud page that lists the warning signs of many common scams in order to help seniors recognize cons and avoid becoming victims.

See some of the latest scams below. For the full list of Fraud Alerts, visit da.lacounty.gov/community/fraud-alerts. You can also follow @LADAOffice on Twitter and Instagram for up-to-date news and use #FraudFriday.

Fraud Alert 3-8-19: Tax-Season Phishing Scam Seeks to Hook Personal, Financial Data

Tax season is the busy season for identity thieves. Be careful when sharing your personal and tax information — particularly online.

In the Tax-Season Phishing Scam, crooks send fake email, text, and other messages that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The fraudsters try to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal their identities.

The email may seek information related to filing status, personal and PIN information, and other tax-related details. It also may ask the victim to click on a bogus website that appears to be an official IRS site but instead uses malware to steal personal information from the victim’s computer.

More details about how the scam works and tips to avoid getting ripped off are detailed in this 3-8-19 video from the D.A.’s Office.

Fraud Alert 12-14-18: Scammers Try to Take Portion of Unclaimed Property

People with forgotten bank accounts or insurance policies should beware of fraudsters seeking to profit from their overlooked assets.

In the Unclaimed Property Scam, asset locators or investigators contact individuals and offer to track down long-lost money. They demand an up-front fee or a percentage of the collected cash.

Such services are unnecessary and may be illegal.

Banks, insurance companies and other businesses are required to turn over inactive properties to the State Controller’s Office, which provides the information to the public for free. Once an unclaimed property is reported, investigators are prohibited by law from contacting the owner to offer their services.

Tips:

  • Avoid signing contracts with asset investigators.
  • If entering such a contract, it is illegal for investigators to charge more than 10 percent of the value of the property.
  • Search for unclaimed property for free at the California State Controller’s Office website: ucpi.sco.ca.gov.
  • If you live outside of California, access your state government’s unclaimed property website at unclaimed.org.

More details about how the scam works and tips to avoid getting ripped off are detailed in this 12-14-18 video from the D.A.’s Office.

Fraud Alert 9-28-18: Requests for Gift Cards as Payment Often Signal Fraud

When someone calls offering a product or service and asks for a gift card as payment, it’s probably a scam.

In the Gift Card Payment Scam, fraudsters call the victims, usually with a sense of urgency, and offer to resolve a purported debt or other problem. The scammers keep victims on the phone, then tell them to buy a gift card, most commonly an Apple iTunes card, and provide the card’s code as payment.

More details about how the scam works and tips to avoid getting ripped off are detailed in this 9-28-18 video from the D.A.’s Office.

Fraud Alert 9-14-18: Beware of Political Donation Scams During Election Season

People who plan to donate money to their favorite politician this election season should be careful they’re giving cash to the candidate and not a crook.

In the Political Donation Scam, thieves pose as campaign workers and call people seeking contributions. The fraudsters may spoof a candidate’s phone number and even use recordings of the politician or a purported virtual town hall to make the ruse appear legitimate.

More details about how the scam works and tips to avoid getting ripped off are detailed in this 9-14-18 video from the D.A.’s Office.

Fraud Alert 8-24-18: Seniors Should Hold New Medicare Cards Close to Avoid Scams

New Medicare cards are being mailed nationwide to prevent fraud and identity theft, but seniors should beware of a scam arising from the distribution of these new cards.

In the New Medicare Card Scam, fraudsters call seniors and tell them they must provide their Social Security number or other personal information, or make a payment to receive or activate their new Medicare cards. That isn’t true. Medicare enrollees should receive their new cards automatically from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

More details about how the scam works and tips to avoid getting ripped off are detailed in this 8-24-18 video from the D.A.’s Office.

Fraud Alert 7-27-18: Companies Keep Consumers on Hook with Automatic Subscription Renewal Scam

Free trials for credit monitoring services or gym memberships can be easy to forget — until a hefty renewal charge shows up on a bank or credit card statement.

In the Automatic Subscription Renewal Scam, companies get customers to pay for subscriptions they may not intend to renew by automatically charging their accounts or credit cards. More details about how the scam works and tips to avoid getting ripped off are detailed in this 7-27-18 video from the D.A.’s Office.

Fraud Alert 6-8-18: Crooks Binge on Victims’ Data with Streaming Service Scam

Losing access to a favorite video streaming service can put binge-watchers into a panic — and con artists have been taking advantage of this with an increasingly popular fraud.

In the Streaming Service Scam, victims receive an email that appears to be from a video or music streaming app claiming a subscription was canceled because the billing information couldn’t be verified. It directs victims to click a link to a fraudulent website that requests their credit card information or other personal data. More details about how the scam works and tips to avoid getting ripped off are detailed in this 6-8-18 video from the D.A.’s Office.

Fraud Alert 5-24-18: Hidden Costs Could Lurk Beneath Picturesque Vacation Deals

Don’t let hidden costs and restrictions turn a dream vacation into a disappointment.

In the Vacation Discount Scam, underhanded travel businesses offer discounts for airfare, resorts, cruises and other vacation packages, but the deals often include hidden costs or require extra fees to enjoy the full package of benefits. More details on how the scam works and tips to avoid getting ripped off are detailed in this 5-24-18 video from the D.A.’s Office.

Retirees: Beware of Phone Calls from Scammers

Some pension systems in California have reported that scammers have been making phone calls to their members saying they owe money to the fund. Recently, LACERA received one report of a LACERA member being targeted in this manner. These scammers employ fear tactics, telling retirees they must send money through prepaid credit cards in order to receive their pension. LACERA would like you to be aware just in case you receive a similar call.

Should this happen to you, rest assured: Even if a caller claims to be from LACERA and the caller ID appears authentic, you can be confident it’s fraudulent because LACERA will never call to ask you for money. In the case of a legitimate overpayment (or underpayment), we will mail you a letter with details pertaining to your specific situation. Please call us at 800-786-6464 if you receive any suspicious communication.

3/19/19