The best way to avoid fraud is to be aware and to do your due diligence when someone asks for or demands money. For example, there are scammers calling, impersonating law enforcement, and telling callers they must pay money or they will be arrested. See City of Portland – Phone Scam Fraud Impersonating Police Office. A similar scam, reported by the FTC in 2015 goes like this: “You get a phone call. Someone you care about is in jail and, they say, you need to pay up to bail him out. The scam-detecting radar in your head immediately goes off. You’re skeptical – but the caller ID says the call is from the police department. And, let’s be honest, your nephew is a knucklehead and you can totally imagine him being arrested. So, you keep listening. The caller tells you to put money on a prepaid card and give him the card number.” (FTC: Scammers impersonate the Police). The FTC goes on to say the police NEVER tell people to pay with prepaid cards. That’s why, in an article warning people to be wary of scammer, Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley said “the best defense against a phone scam is awareness and prevention.”

In Roberts v. State, 344 Ga. App. 324 (2018), “dozens of senior citizens living in DeKalb and Fulton Counties received telephone calls, in which a female claiming to be a representative of Georgia Power Company named Tonya McCloud would inform them that their utility bill had not been paid and that their power would be cut off if they did not provide her with credit card, bank account, or other personal and financial information.” Many victims gave out their credit card or debit card information, resulting in unauthorized charges. After at least one victim reported the crime, Georgia Power, and the Clayton and Fulton County Police Departments investigated, arresting Santee Roberts. Roberts failed to appear in court and, as most criminals do, she resumed defrauding people. A few months later she called a 65 year old, telling her that her gas would be shut off unless she placed her credit card in the mailbox for a gas company representative to retrieve and process. She told the crook she would put it in the mailbox, but instead called her son, who in turn called the police. Roberts was re-arrested when police responded, saw a suspicious looking vehicle in the neighborhood and followed it. Roberts was tried and convicted because one of her victims took action and called the police. In upholding the conviction, the Georgia Court of Appeals stated:

at the time of the indictment, OCGA § 16-9-121 (a) (1) provided: “A person commits the offense of identity fraud when he or she willfully and fraudulently … [w]ithout authorization or consent, uses or possesses with intent to fraudulently use, identifying information concerning an individual….” And “identifying information” includes checking-account numbers, credit-card numbers, and debit-card numbers.[6] In the same time frame, OCGA § 16-9-122 provided: “It shall be unlawful for any person to attempt or conspire to commit any offense prohibited by this article.” Additionally, OCGA § 16-9-33 (a) (2) (B) provided:

A person commits the offense of financial transaction card fraud when with intent to defraud the issuer; a person or organization providing money, goods, services, or anything else of value; or any other person, [she] … [o]btains money, goods, services, or anything else of value by … [p]resenting the financial transaction card without the authorization or permission of the cardholder[.] Furthermore, under the former version of OCGA § 30-5-8,”[i]n addition to any other provision of law, the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of any disabled adult or elder person shall be unlawful.”And former OCGA § 30-5-3 (7.1) defined “[e]lder person” as “a person 65 years of age or older who is not a resident of a long-term care facility….”

Here, as discussed in detail supra, the evidence showed that over the course of several months, Roberts, with Merkerson’s assistance, participated in a scheme in which she and her cohorts obtained elderly victims’ credit card, banking, and other financial and personal information by telephoning the victims, while posing as utility-company representatives, and informing them that their power would be cut off if they did not immediately provide such information. In several of these phone calls, including those made to B. W. and E. K., Roberts and her accomplices convinced the victims to place their credit and bank cards in their mailboxes so they could retrieve them. As a result of this skulduggery, Roberts used the cards or the account numbers to make purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, and other retail outlets, and to obtain cash advances. Given these particular circumstances, the evidence was sufficient to support Roberts’s convictions on the charges of identity fraud, financial-transaction-card fraud, and of exploitation of an elder person

Investments:

This is what the California Department of Business Oversight has to say about protecting yourself before making an investment: When presented with an opportunity, verify everything. Never make an investment based solely on the recommendation of someone. Verify what you’ve been told about a potential investment. Not everyone checks out what they’ve been told, so be aware that what someone is telling you may be an unverified opinion. If the investment looks too good to be true, it probably is. Get everything in writing (and save what you get). Be suspicious if someone asks you to keep everything confidential. Consult an uninterested professional advisor before signing anything.

What to do:

If you’ve been defrauded, you should report it to the police. If there is any chance you could get your money back, you should also call a lawyer. Fraud, accompanied by damage to the defrauded party, always gives a right of action to the injured party. O.C.G.A. § 51-6-1. When determining whether you have a case against someone for fraud, any willful misrepresentation that resulted in harm gives rise to a cause of action. Section 51-6-2(a) In cases of deceit, there must be evidence that the perpetrator knew of the falsehood. Section 51-6-2(b). In other words, an honest mistake isn’t fraud. However, a reckless representation of facts as true when they are not is the equivalent of knowledge of falsehood. Section 51-6-2(b).

Due Diligence:

Taking Action:

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, the FTC advises:

Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report the theft. Ask that a “fraud alert” be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval.

Equifax: 1.800.525.6285
Experian: 1.888.397.3742
Trans Union: 1.800.680.7289

  1. For any accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened, contact the security department of the appropriate creditor or financial institution. Close these accounts. Put passwords (not your mother’s maiden name or Social Security number) on any new accounts you open.
  2. File a report with local police or the police where the identity theft took place. Get the report number or a copy of the report in case the bank, credit card company or others need proof of the crime later.
  3. Call the ID Theft Clearinghouse toll-free at 1.877.ID.THEFT (1.877.438.4338) to report the theft. Counselors will take your complaint and advise you on how to deal with the credit-related problems that could result from ID theft. The Identity Theft Hotline and the ID Theft Website (www.identitytheft.gov) give you one place to report the theft to the federal government and receive helpful information.

Reporting Scams and Fraud:

Healthcare Fraud:

Scams and Fraud Links:

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