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Warning … Be Alert for Nasty Payday Loan Scams

Information from fbi.gov — The IC3 receives a high volume of complaints from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams. In these scams, a caller claims that the victim is delinquent in a payday loan and must repay the loan to avoid legal consequences.

The callers purport to be representatives of the FBI, Federal Legislative Department, various law firms, or other legitimate-sounding agencies. They claim to be collecting debts for companies such as United Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Net, and other Internet check cashing services.

One of the most insidious aspects of this scam is that the callers have accurate information about the victims, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, employer information, bank account numbers, and names and telephone numbers of relatives and friends. The method by which the fraudsters obtained the personal information is unclear, but victims often relay that they had completed online applications for other loans or credit cards before the calls began.

The fraudsters relentlessly call the victim’s home, cell phone, and place of employment. They refuse to provide to the victims any details of the alleged payday loans and become abusive when questioned. The callers threaten victims with legal actions, arrests, and in some cases physical violence if they refuse to pay. In many cases, the callers even resort to harassment of the victim’s relatives, friends, and employers. 

Some fraudsters instruct victims to fax a statement agreeing to pay a certain dollar amount, on a specific date, via prepaid visa card. The statement further declares that the victim would never dispute the debt. 

These telephone calls are an attempt to obtain payment by instilling fear in the victims. Do not follow the instructions of the caller.

If you receive telephone calls such as these, you should:

  • Contact your banking institutions;
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file;
  • Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger;
  • File a complaint at www.IC3.gov

For more information, go to FBI.gov.

This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

The information in this article is provided “as is”, with all faults, expressed or implied. The author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information. In no event shall the author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder be liable for any incidental or consequential damages, punitive damages, lost profits, and/or any indirect damages.

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Going Holiday Shopping ??? Shop Smart with these Safety Tips

This Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. Christmas is not only a breathtaking time of the year with fun family gatherings and gift giving, but it is also the optimal period for crooks.

holiday shoppingHere are some ideas suggested by some crime prevention specialists to help boost your holiday shopping safety and security, and help conquer these holiday evildoers:

1 — Carry only the credit cards, cash and checks you will need for your shopping. In general, it is best to avoid carrying large amounts of cash — use credit cards or checks, if possible, to make your purchases. 

2 — If your credit card is stolen, misused or lost, be sure notify your credit card issuer at once. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep a complete inventory of your credit cards at home, along with their 800 numbers, just in case of these types of mishaps. 

3 — If you need to use an ATM while shopping, remember to use one located inside a busy, well-lit location and to withdraw only the amount of cash you actually need. Also, protect your PIN (personal identification number) by shielding the ATM keypad from any person who may be standing near you (and do not give out your PIN to anyone), and don’t throw way your ATM receipt at the ATM location. And remember, don’t “flash your cash.” 

4 — Don’t carry a purse or wallet, if possible, as they are the prime targets of thugs, even in crowded shopping areas. 

 5 — Avoid wearing flashy or expensive jewelry. 

6 — Pickpockets and other petty bandits are looking for easy scores, so it might be a smart idea to carry cash, your identification and credit cards in your front pocket. If you do carry a shoulder bag, it’s best to carry it in front of you. 

7 — Stay alert at all times — even though there are a million things on your mind and you have a dozen things to do, please be aware of your surroundings. Law enforcement calls this concept “situational awareness.” Remember, crooks will be more likely to confront you if they think you are distracted. 

8 — If you have a mobile phone, be sure to carry it on your person while shopping for added security. If you don’t have a mobile phone, you might consider getting one as a holiday gift — for yourself.

9 — Try to avoid driving alone or at night, and travel on busy, well-lit roads. Keep your doors and windows closed while in or out of your vehicle. Park was close as you can to your shopping and remember where you have parked.

Don’t approach your vehicle alone if you observe suspicious people in the vicinity. And never leave your vehicle unoccupied with the engine running or with children inside!

A Quick Security Tip: Many malls and shopping centers would be happy to supply a security escort to your car upon request.

10 — Don’t overload yourself with all those packages of holiday goodies! It is vital to have clear visibility to avoid accidents and observe suspicious people. Once you make your purchases, it’s a good plan to secure them in your vehicle’s trunk or cover them with a sheet or blanket — never leave them in open view. Don’t create a temptation for criminals.  

11 — Beware of suspicious people approaching you. Especially during this shopping season, Christmas criminals are always looking for opportunities to take your hard earned money or property. In short, don’t leave your common sense at home while doing your holiday shopping.

For more information on having a safe holiday as well as year-round crime prevention tips, contact your local police department.

My Final Thoughts: Please don’t leave your “common sense” and “good judgment” home while doing your holiday shopping.

And remember, don’t let the “Grinch” steal your Christmas!

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Copyright 2010 by Bruce Mandelblit

Bruce is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer.

Bruce blogs on www.CrimeZilla.com.

This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

The information in this article is provided “as is”, with all faults, expressed or implied. The author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information. In no event shall the author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder be liable for any incidental or consequential damages, punitive damages, lost profits, and/or any indirect damages.

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Do You REALLY Know What To Do If Your Wallet Is Lost or Stolen ???

 

 A lost or stolen wallet or purse is a gold mine of information to identity thieves.

If your wallet or purse is missing or stolen ………

  • File a report with the police immediately and keep a copy.
  • Cancel your credit, debit and ATM cards immediately.
  • Get “new” cards with “new” account numbers.
  • Call the fraud departments of the major credit reporting agencies.
  • Ask each agency to put out a fraud alert on your accounts.
  • Report the loss to the fraud department at your bank.
  • Review your credit reports regularly and have them corrected when necessary.
  • Report a missing driver’s license to your state’s department of motor vehicles.
  • If your keys are missing, change the locks on your home and car.

credit cardsPlease note … Be sure to review your credit report to make sure no fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name and to check if any unauthorized changes made to your existing accounts.

For more information, go to FTC.gov.

This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

The information in this article is provided “as is”, with all faults, expressed or implied. The author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information. In no event shall the author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder be liable for any incidental or consequential damages, punitive damages, lost profits, and/or any indirect damages.

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Halloween Safety Tips … Don’t Be Freightened

STAYING SAFE — “America’s Crime Prevention Column”

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Bruce Mandelblit

winkingboy1For millions are children across the United States, Halloween is a fun and exciting time.  In fact, according to the US Census, there will be about 36 millions kids, from 5 to 13 years old, out trick-or-treating as they visit about 112 million occupied housing units.

For the great majority of children out on Halloween trick-or-treating, it will be an enjoyable and safe event.  However, unfortunately, for a few children, Halloween may be a dangerous time where they might be either intentionally or accidentally harmed.

Here are a few Halloween Safety Tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that may help to protect children who plan on going trick-or-treating …

Treats — Warn children not to eat any treats before an adult has carefully examined them for evidence of tampering.

Flame Resistant Costumes — When purchasing a costume, masks, beards, and wigs, look for the label Flame Resistant. Although this label does not mean these items won’t catch fire, it does indicate the items will resist burning and should extinguish quickly once removed from the ignition source. To minimize the risk of contact with candles or other sources of ignition, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves or billowing skirts.

Costume Designs — Purchase or make costumes that are light and bright enough to be clearly visible to motorists.

  • For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights. Bags or sacks should also be light colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, bicycle, and sporting goods stores.
  • To easily see and be seen, children should also carry flashlights.
  • Costumes should be short enough to prevent children from tripping and falling.
  • Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. Mother’s high heels are not a good idea for safe walking.
  • Hats and scarfs should be tied securely to prevent them from slipping over children’s eyes.
  • Apply a natural mask of cosmetics rather than have a child wear a loose-fitting mask that might restrict breathing or obscure vision. If a mask is used, however, make sure it fits securely and has eyeholes large enough to allow full vision.
  • Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be of soft and flexible material.

Pedestrian Safety — Young children should always be accompanied by an adult or an older, responsible child. All children should WALK, not run from house to house and use the sidewalk if available, rather than walk in the street. Children should be cautioned against running out from between parked cars, or across lawns and yards where ornaments, furniture, or clotheslines present dangers.

Choosing Safe Houses — Children should go only to homes where the residents are known and have outside lights on as a sign of welcome.

  • Children should not enter homes or apartments unless they are accompanied by an adult.
  • People expecting trick-or-treaters should remove anything that could be an obstacle from lawns, steps and porches. Candlelit jack-o’-lanterns should be kept away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame. Indoor jack-o’-lanterns should be kept away from curtains, decorations, and other furnishings that could be ignited.

For more information on these Halloween safety tips, go to www.CPSC.gov or call the CPSC toll-free at (800) 638-2772.

Also be sure to contact your local law enforcement agency for more Halloween safety ideas.

My Final Thoughts — It is vital for parents to take a pro-active role in helping their children have an entertaining, safe and secure Halloween.  By following a few simple and easy safety ideas as suggested by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, you can hopefully enhance the safe Halloween experience for all those involved.

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Copyright 2010 by Bruce Mandelblit

Bruce is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer.

Bruce blogs on www.CrimeZilla.com.

This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

The information in this article is provided “as is”, with all faults, expressed or implied. The author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information. In no event shall the author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder be liable for any incidental or consequential damages, punitive damages, lost profits, and/or any indirect damages.

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Euro Terror Alert … What Can You Do To Help Stop a Terror Attack ???

STAYING SAFE — “America’s Crime Prevention Column”

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Bruce Mandelblit

Recent media stories have once again put a powerful spotlight on the realistic possibly that Al-Qaeda linked groups may be planning a “soft target” terror attack in Europe, and even on United States territory.  These potential terror attacks may be similar to Mumbai shooting spree attacks from November, 2008. 

us flagIn fact, the US State Department recently issued a European travel alert for Americans thinking of visiting Europe.

Security officials in both Europe and the United States have asked their citizens to report any suspicious activity. 

This leads to the question … Exactly what is suspicious activity when is come to an act of potential act of terrorism?

The FBI says there are 7 things you could do that might help prevent a terrorist from carrying out their evil acts:

1 — Surveillance: Are you aware of anyone video recording or monitoring activities, taking notes, using cameras, maps, binoculars, etc., near key facilities/events?

2 — Suspicious Questioning: Are you aware of anyone attempting to gain information in person, by phone, mail, email, etc., regarding a key facility or people who work there?

3 — Tests of Security: Are you aware of any attempts to penetrate or test physical security or procedures at a key facility/event?

4 — Acquiring Supplies: Are you aware of anyone attempting to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, uniforms, badges, flight manuals, access cards or identification for a key facility/event or to legally obtain items under suspicious circumstances that could be used in a terrorist attack?

5 — Suspicious Persons: Are you aware of anyone who does not appear to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment or near a key facility/event?

6 — “Dry Runs”: Have you observed any behavior that appears to be preparation for a terrorist act, such as mapping out routes, playing out scenarios with other people, monitoring key facilities/events, timing traffic lights or traffic flow, or other suspicious activities?

7 — Deploying Assets: Have you observed abandoned vehicles, stockpiling of suspicious materials, or persons being deployed near a key facility/event?

Quick Security Tip:  Per the FBI, if you answered yes to any of the above … if you have observed any suspicious activity that may relate to terrorism … immediately contact the Joint Terrorist Task Force or law enforcement/counterterrorism agency closest to you.

According to the FBI, no matter where you live in the world: Your assistance is needed in preventing terrorist acts.

It’s a fact that certain kinds of activities can indicate terrorist plans that are in the works, especially when they occur at or near high profile sites or places where large numbers of people gather — like government buildings, military facilities, utilities, bus or train stations, major public events. Again, if you see or know about suspicious activities, like the ones listed above, report them immediately to the proper law enforcement authorities.

For more information on this important topic, go to FBI.gov.

My Final Thoughts … Americans can do their part to help keep our country safe. All of us can be the extra eyes and ears of law enforcement by immediately reporting any suspicious activities to the proper authorities.  Like the FBI says …Your tip could save the lives of innocent people.

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Copyright 2010 by Bruce Mandelblit

Bruce is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer.

Bruce blogs on www.CrimeZilla.com.

This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

The information in this article is provided “as is”, with all faults, expressed or implied. The author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information. In no event shall the author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder be liable for any incidental or consequential damages, punitive damages, lost profits, and/or any indirect damages.

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Great News … Crime Rates are Lower

Information from fbi.gov — During 2009, violent crime declined for the third year in a row, with an estimated 5.3 percent drop from 2008 figures. Property crime continued to fall as well—for a seventh straight year—with an estimated decrease of 4.6 percent. That’s according to our just-released report, Crime in the United States, 2009.

These latest statistics come 80 years to the month after we took over the responsibility of compiling and publishing the nation’s crime data from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The categories back in 1930 were almost identical to what we have today—murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, larceny-theft, burglary, and auto theft. (Arson came later.)

Some crime highlights from the 2009 report:

  • Each of the violent crime categories decreased from 2008—murder (7.3 percent), robbery (8.0 percent), aggravated assault (4.2 percent), and forcible rape (2.6 percent).
  • Each of the property crime categories also dropped from 2008—motor vehicle theft (17.1 percent), larceny-theft (4.0 percent), and burglary (1.3 percent).
  • Among the 1,318,398 violent crimes were 15,241 murders; 88,097 forcible rapes; 408,217 robberies; and 806,843 aggravated assaults.
  • Among the 9,320,971 property crimes were an estimated 2,199,125 burglaries; 6,327,230 larceny-thefts; 794,616 thefts of motor vehicles; and 58,871 arsons.
  • During 2009, the South accounted for 42.5 percent of all violent crime in the nation, followed by the West (22.9 percent), the Midwest (19.6 percent), and the Northeast (15.0 percent).
  • During 2009, 43.9 percent of all property crimes in the U.S. were recorded in the South, with 22.7 percent in the West, 20.8 percent in the Midwest, and 12.6 percent in the Northeast.

Additional report highlights on criminals and victims:

  • In 2009, agencies nationwide made about 13.7 million arrests, excluding traffic violations. Of those arrests, an estimated 581,765 were for violent crimes.
  • Nearly 75 percent of all arrested persons in the nation during 2009 were male. Slightly more than 77 percent of all murder victims were also male.
  • Firearms were used in 67.1 percent of the nation’s murders, along with 42.6 percent of robberies and 20.9 percent of aggravated assaults. (Weapons data is not collected for forcible rapes.)
  • Collectively, victims of property crimes (excluding arson) lost an estimated $15.2 billion during 2009.

fbi badgeWhere do these numbers come from? From the 17,985 city, county, university and college, state, tribal, and federal agencies who participated in the Uniform Crime Reporting program in 2009.These agencies represent 96.3 percent of the nation’s population.

The report also contains plenty of additional details, charts, and tables on crime during 2009, including more on offenses, criminals, victims, weapons used, geographic locations, etc. 

As always, a word of warning about drawing conclusions of the data by making direct comparisons between cities—valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.

For more information, go to FBI.gov.

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This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

The information in this article is provided “as is”, with all faults, expressed or implied. The author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information. In no event shall the author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder be liable for any incidental or consequential damages, punitive damages, lost profits, and/or any indirect damages.

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Back to College Safety and Security Tips

STAYING SAFE — “America’s Crime Prevention Column”

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Bruce Mandelblit

It’s back to school time.  Regardless of the college or university, all students must have a basic understanding of what to do – and not do – to help mitigate their crime risk, as well as enhance their personal safety.

business1A federal government agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), offers some helpful tips and ideas for new and transferring college students and their families regarding what to look for when attempting to evaluate a potential college’s campus safety profile:

1 — Since 1991, all places of higher education that take part in any Federal student aid programs have to report three (3) years of campus crime statistics, post security rules, and make timely reports. The Federal Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act also requires every college, both public and private, to publish an annual report by October 1 that contains crime statistics for the past three (3) years.  To check out a specific college’s crime report, go to their website and/or check the US Department of Education website at www.ope.ed.gov.

2 – Ask questions.  Many incidents, especially rape and sexual assault, go unreported because victims are reluctant to step forward. When you visit a college campus, ask guides, professors, and students about their views on campus safety. Do they feel safe? Do they know of crimes that have been committed? How easy is it to report crimes?

3 — You have a lot to see during your campus visit, but don’t forget to look for safety concerns. Make sure the student and their family walk around campus during the day and at night, but also be sure that neither of you walks around alone. Ask yourself these questions:

       *** Do dorms have electronic locks or some other security system in place? Are the doors always locked, or only after certain hours?

       *** Are dorm doors propped open? If you visit a campus during the winter, ask if people prop the doors open during warmer weather.

       *** Do dorm rooms on the ground floor have special safety measures like bars on the windows?

       *** Do dorm windows lock?

       *** Do dorm room doors have peepholes so that the student can see who is at the door before opening it?

       *** Are safety phones or call boxes that immediately connect the caller to the campus police station installed throughout the campus?

       *** Is the campus—parking lots, buildings, dorms, dining halls, walkways—well lit? Is it well lit during the weekend, as well as the weeknights?

       *** What kind of transit system is in place? Will it be easy for the student to catch a bus if he or she is coming home late, or will they have to walk? Is the path well lit?

       *** Does the college provide an escort service for students walking to their dorm rooms at night?

       *** Is there assigned campus security at all times?

3 — When you visit a campus, keep a notebook handy to jot down your thoughts, and be sure to write down safety issues or questions that come up.

Visiting a college campus is a good way for a potential student and their family to get a feel for a college and what its campus life is like. It helps a student and their family to make a better, more-informed choice about which college is a good fit. Whether the college is private or public, big or small, in the middle of a city or the middle of nowhere, help your child find ways to stay safe. Protect your peace of mind—and your child.

A Quick Security Tip:  You may want to check with the local law enforcement agency whose jurisdiction covers the area of the college campus to see what security and safety insights they may have to offer.

For more details on these SAMHSA college safety ideas, visit their website:  www.SAMHSA.gov.

My Final Thoughts:  College safety and security is of paramount concern to millions of college students and their families.  Of course, no safety and security plan is foolproof.  Taking reasonable and prudent security steps can, however, help reduce a student’s risk of being a crime victim, as well as improve their overall campus safety.

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Copyright 2010 by Bruce Mandelblit

Bruce is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer.

Bruce blogs on www.CrimeZilla.com.

This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

The information in this article is provided “as is”, with all faults, expressed or implied. The author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information. In no event shall the author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder be liable for any incidental or consequential damages, punitive damages, lost profits, and/or any indirect damages.

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Ruthless Scam-Artists Prey On Desperate Victims of Pakistan’s Flooding

STAYING SAFE — “America’s Crime Prevention Column”

with

Bruce Mandelblit

The record flooding in Pakistan has affected millions of anxious people including countless children.  There are media reports that the worst flooding in 80-years has displaced about 20 million Pakistanis.  In addition, millions of Pakistanis are absolutely frantic for even the basic necessities such as food, water and shelter.  The flooding in Pakistan is one of the worst natural disasters of recent years.

Given these dire circumstances, it would be hard to believe that anyone would be so brutal as to take improper advantage of these awful conditions for their own personal financial gain. 

money2Within days of the horrific flooding in Pakistan, there have been indications that heartless scammers and wicked cyber-thugs were already trying to scam the charitable donations of hard-working Americans … and therefore preventing this essential money from reaching victims of the disastrous flooding.

Sadly, it is reported by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it is common for criminals to steal funds from generous folks who think they are donating to legit charities that are trying to assist the hard-hit victims of disasters, such as the flooding in Pakistan.  As such, the FTC warns consumers to use caution when donating to charities that claim to help victims of the devastating catastrophes.

According to the FTC, while many legitimate groups help victims, scam artists may take advantage of the disaster by creating bogus fundraising operations.

The FTC warns consumers to be wary of appeals that tug at the heart strings, but are short on details about how disaster victims will benefit. The FTC advises consumers who are asked to contribute to a charity of the following:

       1 — Don’t be shy about asking who wants your money. Some charities hire professional fundraisers for large-scale mailings, telephone drives, and other solicitations rather than use their own staff or volunteers, and then use a portion of the donations to pay the fundraiser’s fees. If you’re solicited for a donation, ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and the percentage of your donation that will go to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer – or if you don’t like the answer you get – consider donating to a different organization.

       2 — Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a scam artist.

       3 — Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number.

       4 — Contact the office that regulates charitable organizations and charitable solicitations in your state to see if the charity or fundraiser must be registered. If so, check to make sure that the company you’re talking to is registered. For a list of state offices, visit the National Association of State Charity Officials at www.nasconet.org/agencies. Your state office also can verify how much of your donation goes to the charity, and how much goes to fundraising and management expenses. You also can check out charities with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/charity) and GuideStar (www.guidestar.org).

       5 — Trust your gut – and check your records if you have any doubt about whether you’ve made a pledge or a contribution. Callers may try to trick you by thanking you for a pledge you didn’t make. If you don’t remember making the donation or don’t have a record of your pledge, resist the pressure to give.

       6 — Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with current events or natural disasters. They may make a compelling case for your money, but as a practical matter, they probably don’t have the infrastructure to get your donation to the affected area or people.

       7 — Watch out for similar sounding names. Some phony charities use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations. If you notice a small difference from the name of the charity you intend to deal with, call the organization you know to check it out.

       8 — Be cautious of promises of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. According to U.S. law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

       9 — Be wary of charities offering to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your donation immediately.

       10 – Know the difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” Tax exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.

       11 – Do not send or give cash donations. Cash can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by credit card. If you’re thinking about giving online, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL that begins “https:” (the “s” stands for “secure”).

For more information on these FTC charity scam tips, go to FTC.gov.

My Final Thoughts:  Most charities that raise money to help the victims of disasters are legit and work very hard to help those people in desperate need.  A few cruel scammers, however, are lurking out there trying to take advantage of good and generous people who are willing to donate their hard-earned cash to help victims of disasters.

So before you donate your money, take the time to make sure the charity to which you are giving is legitimate.

If you think your donation was given to a fake charity or other scam artist, please contact your local law enforcement agency and call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP for assistance.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the hard-hit victims of the flooding in Pakistan, one of the worst natural disasters of recent times.

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Copyright 2010 by Bruce Mandelblit

Bruce is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer.

Bruce blogs on www.CrimeZilla.com.

This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.

The information in this article is provided “as is”, with all faults, expressed or implied. The author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information. In no event shall the author and/or publisher and/or copyright holder be liable for any incidental or consequential damages, punitive damages, lost profits, and/or any indirect damages.

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16 Ways Sneaky Thugs Target Your Credit Cards

Information from fbi.gov …  1 — Don’t give out your credit card number(s) online unless the site is a secure and reputable site. Sometimes a tiny icon of a padlock appears to symbolize a higher level of security to transmit data. This icon is not a guarantee of a secure site, but might provide you some assurance.

2 — Don’t trust a site just because it claims to be secure.

money bag3 — Before using the site, check out the security/encryption software it uses.

4 — Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source.

5 — Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.

6 — Try to obtain a physical address rather than merely a post office box and a phone number, call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.

7 — Send them e-mail to see if they have an active e-mail address and be wary of sellers who use free e-mail services where a credit card wasn’t required to open the account.

8 — Consider not purchasing from sellers who won’t provide you with this type of information.

9 — Check with the Better Business Bureau from the seller’s area.

10 – Check out other web sites regarding this person/company.

11 – Don’t judge a person/company by their web site.

12 – Be cautious when responding to special offers (especially through unsolicited e-mail).

13 – Be cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside your own country.

14 – The safest way to purchase items via the Internet is by credit card because you can often dispute the charges if something is wrong.

15 – Make sure the transaction is secure when you electronically send your credit card numbers.

16 – You should also keep a list of all your credit cards and account information along with the card issuer’s contact information. If anything looks suspicious or you lose your credit card(s) you should contact the card issuer immediately.

For more information, go to FBI.gov

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