Articles & Blogs
Recent flooding has brought out the best in our community.Â I have seen, first hand, the “love” in Loveland.Â Unfortunately, natural disasters tend to attract con artists and criminals who take advantage of people who have been devastated. Stay alert and be cautious of scammers. Loveland Police handle scam calls on a weekly basis.Â The following information will help you understand what to look for and how to stay away from the most common scams during a Natural Disaster.
Home repair frauds
Home repair and cleanup frauds are especially common after natural disasters. It's important to be very careful about hiring anyone to work on your home.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Be wary of anyone soliciting work. Â Soliciting door to door is in violation of Loveland Municipal Code.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Check references.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Never pay a home contractor or any other vendor in cash.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Always ask for written estimates.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Get a second opinion before hiring anyone.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Don’t pay full amount for work before work has begun.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Don't be pressured.
Con artists may pretend to solicit money to help the victims of a natural disaster. The made-up name of their group will often be almost identical to a well-known, reputable charity.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Check out any charitable group you are unfamiliar with. There are nonprofit watchdog groups that evaluate charitable organizations on their performance in a number of areas. Two respected organizations to contact are Charity Navigator and Wise Giving Alliance.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Be wary of out-of-state organizations, especially if their only address is a post office box.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Never make cash donations and always make your checks payable to the organization, not to the individual soliciting.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Be careful when responding to charitable solicitations that come through the mail.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Be alert to potential email scams.
Some con artists may also pretend to be a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives collecting a "processing fee" for an emergency loan or other assistance. If you get a phone call or visit from someone claiming to be a representative of a particular agency, always call the agency to confirm that the representative is legitimate. Don’t contact them using a phone number the solicitor gave to you.
Many people lose important papers and documents after a natural disaster. These items, which often contain personal information such as Social Security and credit card and bank account numbers, can be used by identity thieves to make purchases and open new accounts in your name. For your protection, be sure to:
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Contact your creditors immediately to report lost credit cards. Contact your bank if you have lost checks or a bank card.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Use a paper shredder to dispose of any papers or documents with personal information when you are cleaning up after a disaster so identity thieves can't get your personal information.
·Â Â Â Â Â Â Get a copy of your credit report a few weeks after the disaster to be sure that no one has illegally used your personal information. You are eligible for a free credit report once a year from www.annualcreditreport.com
Getting help after a disaster
The Disaster Assistance Center is open at 815 SW 14th St. and offers a variety of services.
Should you experience an unresolved issue with a company about a financial product or service, register a complaint on the Consumer Complaint Database at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Also, contact your local law enforcement agency.Â To file a report in the City of Loveland, contact the Loveland Police Department at 970-667-2151.Â For any questions related to scams contact Crime Prevention Officer Mary Marchio at 970-962-2229.
Information obtained greatly from Military One Source
Check writing fraud story
Articles & Blogs
By the time a Wells Fargo bank in Denver called Connie Hanrahan about the check a man was trying to cash from her company, thieves had already siphoned more than $6,000 from her business account.
Within 24 hours, eight fraudulent checks issued in the name of Mantooth Marketing Co. had been cashed in Boulder and Denver for a total of $15,607.44, stunning the Fort Collins small-business owner who now admits she was too trusting.
Hanrahan said a check to one of her vendors was stolen, “washed,” reproduced at least eight times, and cashed at Wells Fargo branches in Denver and Boulder. Had the Wells Fargo clerk not noticed something funny with Mantooth’s check, the company could have easily been taken for $30,000, Hanrahan said.
It’s not a particularly sophisticated or new scam, said Lisa Tennyson, financial crimes consultant for Wells Fargo . Someone steals checks from outgoing or incoming mail, dips the check in a solvent as common as nail polish remover to erase the written information, then rewrites the check and cashes it. The differences can be hard to detect.
“We see it every day,” Tennyson said. “There are different schemes but the basic one is steal a check and make counterfeit checks.”
The techniques are all available on the Internet, she said. “It’s not a secret, trust me, I wish it were.”
Fort Collins police see an average of one to two check-washing cases a day, said Sgt. Don Whitson of the department’s financial crimes unit. It’s the same scam thieves have been using for years.
“Take a check and dunk it in a bucket of acetone until the ink dissolves and rewrite the name. If they start doing fake IDs along with it, it makes it more difficult to trace,” he said.
Last year, authorities in Larimer and Weld counties broke up a check fraud ring, arresting several people for stealing mail out of boxes in northwest Fort Collins, Rist Canyon and Stove Prairie. The checks were washed, clearing all personal information so the ring could cash them across Northern Colorado.
The National Check Fraud Center estimates about $815 million in washed checks are passed every year and the practice is increasing rapidly.
Attempted check fraud at U.S. banks totaled $11 billion in 2010, but security and prevention systems caught 92 percent of fradulent attempts, according to the American Bankers Association. Actual bank losses totaled $893 million in 2010, down from $1 billion in 2008.
Hanrahan’s story is a cautionary tale for small businesses that still use paper checks in this digital age when half of all consumers pay their bills online. According to an annual consumer trends survey conducted by Fiserv, a financial services technology company, paper checks now account for about 23 percent of all bills paid.
The survey reports that of the 72.5 million households that use online banking, 36.4 million use online bill pay. That’s a 78 percent increase in use since 2000.
“There is still a lot of paper going on,” said Tennyson, who recommended businesses switch to online banking. It minimizes the check stock that might be stored in an office and vulnerable to theft.
“Thieves can hit on the weekend, cashing checks at check cashing stores,” she said. “A lot of damage can occur from Friday night to Monday morning.”
With improved technology, it’s sometimes hard to detect counterfeit checks, she said. With the technology available to the average person, “you can spend a few grand and get all the equipment” to run the racket at local office supply stores. “It’s not an expensive trade to get started in with high payoffs.”
The bank covered Mantooth’s loss, but Tennyson said all consumers end up paying as banks pass those losses on to customers through higher fees the same way retailers deal with shoplifting.
In some cases, banks will not cover losses caused by check fraud.
“In general, if the consumer follows the guidelines given to them by the bank, usually the bank will take the loss,” Tennyson said. “But everybody has to do their due diligence in reviewing their account statements.”
If four or five months go by and the business or consumer doesn’t realize the fraud because they’re not reviewing their statements, the business may end up taking the loss, she said.
Cracking the case
Boulder police arrested a homeless man attempting to cash a Mantooth check for $1,960.25 on Aug. 14. The clerk noticed the signature on the check was different than the signature the bank had on file for Mantooth Marketing. She called Mantooth Chief Financial Officer Linda Shoemaker, who told the clerk the check was not authorized and that several fraudulent checks were being cashed.
The clerk called police, who arrested Cameron Clayton Fell.
Fell told police he had been near the Denver Rescue Mission looking for work when a 2013 Chevrolet Impala picked him up to do a small job, according to the police report. The driver wrote a $1,960.25 check to Fell, telling him he could keep $200 if he cashed it and gave and the rest of the money back.
Fell said he knew it was shady behavior, but he needed the money, according to the report.
Sometimes called the “well-dressed man” scam, the scheme often places all the risk of attempting to cash a bogus check on a homeless or impoverished victim while the scammer waits outside at a safe distance.
“I don’t care about pressing charges against this man,” Hanrahan said. “He has nothing to do with this in the big scheme of the world. He’s not the person who created the ring.”
While the bank covered Hanrahan’s losses, she said “the violation is a horrible feeling, and it takes many days to get the money back in your account, which means your business is on hold.”
But the theft served as a wake-up call.
“I was still writing checks,” she said. “I wanted to know my debts were getting paid. I never thought, ‘oh my goodness, someone will steal a check, wash it and take it to another community. I am way too trusting, but I have learned my lesson. We changed everything,” she said, including converting to online bill payment.
“So many of us think about what our clients need every day, we don’t think about ourselves. All of a sudden I’m being hit on the top of my head,” said Hanrahan, who, along with Shoemaker, spent 30 to 40 hours cleaning up the mess, changing accounts and notifying vendors. She’s saddened that vendors will have to wait longer to get paid but said most understood the issues.
The day she learned of the fraud, Hanrahan said she was stunned. The second day, “I was mad as hell, and by the third day, I was ‘tell me what I have to do to hunt these people down,’ ” Hanrahan said.
She’s grateful the bank tellers were alert and worked so quickly to take care of the problem.
“The world stopped, they took care of me,” Hanrahan said. “It made us feel a lot better.”
Now, she’s focused on protecting herself and her business and cautioning others like her to do the same.
“Oh my gosh, if this can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.”
On a side note to check theft, I knew someone who regularly would put outgoing mail in her mailbox, then put the 'flag' up to alert the postal carrier that there was outgoing mail. It also alerted mail thieves who happen to drive by her house... and they stole bills paid by check that she was mailing out, and washed a handful of their checks.. and voila, instant access to their bank account. Do not put outgoing mail in your box, then raise the flag. Instead drive it to a locked mailbox, or to the post office.
keep track of your valuables / FCPD
Articles & Blogs
Keep Track of Your Valuables (Fort Collins Police Services)
Fort Collins Police Services encourages all residents to develop an inventory of their valuables in case of fire, theft, or other disasters and offers a free online system that will help keep track of your personal property.
ReportIt is a free, secure online service allowing citizens to record serial numbers and upload images for phones, electronics, and other valuables. Should those items ever be stolen, having the information will go a long way in accurately and quickly identifying your property. Citizens can access the site at reportit.leadsonline.com.
The ReportIt service is a part of LeadsOnline, the online system that works with police agencies across the country to track and recover stolen property. Fort Collins Police Services uses LeadsOnline to help track and recover stolen property ---- everything from jewelry to sporting equipment to electronics, computers, cameras, collectibles, and other items with invaluable personal worth. The system allows detectives to search for the items using a variety of parameters, including item descriptions and serial numbers. When an item is sold through a secondhand business, whether locally or utilizing an on-line service, the product information is entered in the LeadsOnline database and is immediately viewable by participating law enforcement agencies across the country.
Fort Collins Police Services has used LeadsOnline since 2006.
Citizens can store an unlimited number of serial numbers, item descriptions, pictures, and scans of receipts so items may be more easily identified in the event of theft. This record may also come in handy when filing claims with insurance providers in the event of loss. Citizens wanting to participate in Report It can register for the free service at reportit.leadsonline.com and begin building their personal property inventory list.
PSD Msg reference Connecticut shooting today
Articles & Blogs
Dear PSD Parent/Guardian,
Our hearts and condolences go out to the families of the victims of today’s tragic shooting in Connecticut. As educators, we spend our careers protecting children and today’s violence is heartbreaking.
The safety and wellbeing of students and staff is the top priority in Poudre School District. We have worked closely with local law enforcement to implement security measures to ensure that schools remain safe learning environments for children. These include:
· A single point of entry to the school (many of which were recently retrofitted through the 2010 Bond)
· Security video cameras at each school (many of which will be enhanced through the 2010 Bond)
· Sign-in procedures for all visitors with identifying badges
· Lock-down and lock-out drills that are routinely practiced at each school
· Ongoing threat assessment protocols
· Emergency response training and heightened awareness of building leaders
As the situation in Connecticut continues to unfold, please know that PSD is ready to support students with concerns or fears when they return on Monday. If your student is having issues dealing with the Connecticut situation, please have him/her visit with their school counselor next week. Counselors have access to trained mental health professionals and resources that can support students through this emotional event.
Additionally, below are some tips for parents when discussing the Connecticut tragedy:
1) Collect your thoughts before speaking to your student.
2) Reassure your student that he/she is safe.
3) Remain calm. The more calm parents remain while delivering information, the easier it is for students to process. Students look to parents as role models. Your reaction will guide their response.
4) Minimize student access to media reports about the shooting. Media reports can raise anxiety.
5) Take advantage of community resources for mental health support:
a. Mental Health Connections (24-hour support): 221-5551
b. Touchstone Health Partners: 494-4300
Like you, I am horrified by today’s tragedy. But I am thankful that PSD is part of a caring community committed to keeping our children safe.
Thank you for your continued support of PSD.
Nancy Wright Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools