Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - March 9, 2012

Tips on avoiding financial fraud

Local residents can learn about financial crimes and ways to protect themselves by attending an identity-theft forum presented by Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss and District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

The event takes place Thursday, March 15, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Avenidas, 450 Bryant St., Palo Alto. RSVPs can be made by contacting ashley.allen@bos.sccgov.org or 408-299-5059.

Speakers and topics include: Neal O'Farrell, executive director of The Identity Theft Council, "A community response to a crisis"; Palo Alto police Sgt. James Reifschneider; Patti Mcrae, director of mediation services, Consumer Protection Unit, Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, "Steps you can take to prevent identity theft"; Janet Berry, Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, "Role of the District Attorney's Office" and "Seeking restitution."

Below are tips to avoid financial crimes from the Palo Alto Police Department. Additional tips on specific types of financial crimes and how to avoid them are available on the FBI website at www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud.

* Be wary of anyone requesting payment by wire transfer. Regardless of the name or shipping address provided, such transfers can be claimed from anywhere in the world.

* Do not rely on the telephone's caller-ID. "Spoofing" applications allow a criminal to obscure his or her true telephone number or assume the phone number of another person.

* Do not provide any personal information in response to unsolicited telephone calls or email messages. If you need to provide or verify your personal information with your bank or credit-card issuer, call them at the number listed on your card or statement.

* Remember that you will not win any contests you did not enter.

* Do business with reputable companies that are known to you.

* Do your homework: Consult the Better Business Bureau and do an Internet search on any businesses or individuals with whom you plan to do business.

* Be wary of cashing checks from people you do not know. Ask your bank to authenticate the check prior to deposit.

* Above all else: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

— Sue Dremann

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