Internet shysters swindle residents

By Dave Gomez

DeKalbians encountering a sudden lucky break may want to think twice before divulging personal information for a great deal.

DeKalb police have begun two fraud investigations in the past week after two citizens were bilked out of money.

One of the scams, known as the “Canadian Lottery,” promised the nascent victim that he or she had won a substantial amount of money, even though they had not entered any sweepstakes. However, the victim could not claim the money until he or she paid a certain amount to cover additional charges. Police did not identify the victim.

Most of the bamboozlement is based in another country, DeKalb police Lt. Jim Kayes said.

“Usually, if we’re lucky, we might be able to trace a phone number to a country of origin – sometimes coppers up there might be working on it,” Kayes said.

The other scam involved a local man who lost $1,000 in an e-mail scam, Kayes said.

The scam, known as “phishing” or “spoofing,” falsified an e-mail address purported to be from TCF Bank and asked for the man’s account information, Kayes said. When the man replied with the information, unknown people in Arizona withdrew money from his account.

Although it can be difficult to tell where the e-mails come from, they appear to be mostly from the United States and are relatively easy to set up and profit from, Kayes said.

“If you get one response out of a thousand e-mails, you can work with it and establish a fake identity,” he said.

Although people have become generally more aware of Internet scams over the years, there are also more users online than in the past, said William Cummings, an associate professor of accounting.

“A lot of people are still ignorant [that] they shouldn’t be giving out their Social Security number,” he said.

Cummings said that years ago, checks commonly featured both Social Security and driver’s license numbers.

“Obviously, that gave a leg up to scammers and fraudsters,” he said.

More troubling to Americans may be the information already public in certain areas.

According to a report released earlier this month by the Government Accountability Office, 94 percent of Social Security numbers are visible on county documents nationwide and 15 to 28 percent of counties make them available online through public records.

However, preventing personal information from being stolen can be easy.

Cummings said people should be sure the businesses they are dealing with are legitimate and refrain from giving out their Social Security numbers unless it is absolutely required, such as for a bank loan.

Common sense also helps, Kayes said.

“Any time a deal is too good to be true – it is,” Kayes said. “It’s like anything else: if there’s a way to con people, there’s going to be somebody doing it.”