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Scams & Schemes FAQ List

Scams & Schemes FAQs

I have received various phone calls from people representing themselves as police officers and asking for donations. Are they really police officers?


Deputies and members of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office do not solicit funds in their official capacity as law enforcement officers for any outside organizations over the telephone.  Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office does not accept or recieve funds from these telemarketing organizations. 


While there are many worthy groups and organizations which support law enforcement and their members, remember to always ask phone solictors if they will send you information on their charity.  If they won't, just hang up.  Ask questions such as how they disburse collected funds.  Be wary of callers who insist you make a decision "right now" and ask for personal information such as your social security number.  


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I received a letter from a foreign country telling me I won millions of dollars in the lottery, how do I know if it’s real?


Remember, if it sounds too good, it probably is. This definitely applies to foreign lottery scams. Con artists make up reasons for why you need to wire them money (e.g., taxes, special courier), or why you should give them your banking information. The criminal is certainly not planning on making a deposit, just a withdrawal of your savings.


It is illegal to participate in a foreign lottery and if you did receive a letter, report this to the United States Postal Inspection Service Office.


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I received a solicitation (fax, letter, or email) from Nigeria offering to transfer millions of dollars into my bank account. Who should I report this to?


This is a scam, known as the Nigerian 4-1-9 Fraud Scam, and you should:


- Contact the United States Postal Inspection Service Office if you received the solicitation in the mail.


- Otherwise, notify the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).


The IC3 is an alliance between the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  IC3 provides an analytical repository for Internet crime complaints.  IC3 analyzes and refers all fraudulent activity identified on the Internet to appropriate local, state, and federal law enforcement authority.


To file an internet crime complaint, visit the IC3 website.


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Are pyramid schemes Illegal?


Pyramid or Ponzi schemes require recruitment of members rather than the sale of goods and services. For a fee, the scheme requires you to recruit other members into the scheme while promising huge payoffs. They are illegal schemes designed to defraud.


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I was the winning bid on an Internet auction site. I sent the seller a money order for the item, but never received it. Where can I go to file a complaint?


Internet auction fraud can be reported by filing a complaint online with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).


The IC3 is an alliance between the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  IC3 provides an analytical repository for Internet Crime Complaints. IC3 analyzes and refers all fraudulent activity identified on the Internet to appropriate local, state, and federal law enforcement authority.


To file an Internet crime complaint, visit the IC3 website.


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I read an ad in the newspaper offering guaranteed loans if I paid some money in loan fees in advance. Should I be concerned about this offer?


Yes, you have just encountered an advertisement for an advance fee loan scam and the party offering the loan is a criminal.


They would instruct you to complete and return a loan application which requires you to divulge your personal identifying and financial information. It may also require you to send copies of your driver’s license and social security card.  After the criminal has obtained all of your information, they will request that you wire the 'loan fees' to them.  If you do this, the criminal will not have just stolen your money, but also your identity.  


If you suffer a loss, the crime should be reported to your local law enforcement office.


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How does an identity theft criminal get your information?


The methods a criminal may use to obtain your personal identification are as varied as the victims themselves and while there is never a guarantee of not becoming a victim, there are certain steps one can take to greatly reduce the danger.  While identity theft criminals have developed many ways of gaining access to your personal information and are continuing to come up with new ideas all of the time, the most widely used methods are still the easiest ones to block which can make prevention easier.


Below is a list of the most widely-used methods an identity theft criminal will use to gain access to your personal information.


  • Dumpster Diving: A criminal digs through trash, hoping to find discarded items such as credit card bills, bank account statements, and other mail which may include sensitive personal information.

  • Skimming: The criminal sets up a special storage device that captures your credit card information when making a purchase.

  • Phishing: This is a newer technique that became available with the advent of the Internet and e-mail. A criminal pretends to be a representative of a financial institution and will send e-mails stating that your account appears to have been compromised and lead you to a website where you can straighten things out. This is a scam and you will be asked to verify certain personal information that the thief should not have.

  • Pretexting: Once a criminal already has some of your information, they will contact your bank or creditors and using a bogus excuse will persuade the institution to supply additional information to them.

  • Physical stealing: This is the oldest method around and is just as it sounds. A criminal will simply steal somebody’s wallet or purse to see if any sensitive information can be obtained.


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I believe I may have been a victim of identity theft, who do I call?


  1. File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of a crime.

  2. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission:



By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338), or TTY 1-866-653-4261

By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20580


Also, be sure to take advantage of the free annual credit reports from all three agencies that you are entitled to per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  You should review these at least annually, to ensure no fraudulent inquiries or account established in your name.  More information can be found on the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Information page here.


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Whom do I notify of spam and phishing e-mails?


Forward unsolicited commercial e-mail (spam), including phishing messages, directly to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at These messages will be stored in a database law enforcement agencies use in their investigations.


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How do I reduce the number of phone calls I receive from telemarketers?


Register with the National Do Not Call Registry by calling (888) 382-1222, or visit the website at


If you continue to receive calls after being registered, complaints can be filed at the Do Not Call web site or with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit the FTC website at or call (877) 382-4357.


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How do I opt out of mailing lists?


Call 1-888-567-8688, or visit the Opt-Out web site at


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