On July 19, 2014 the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Antonio Office issued a press release discussing fraudulent attempts made by con artists targeting the families of unaccompanied children—mostly from Central America—coming to the United States through the Rio Grande valley and Tucson border. According to the press release, these con artists operate by making themselves appear as credible entities and reaching out to the family members of unaccompanied children, seeking payment in exchange for what the families believe will cover travel and legal expenses that will allow the children to be reunited with them. These plots are deceptive and fraudulent. The San Antonio FBI office confirmed that on July 18 two fraud schemes of this sort occurred via telephone. In one instance the perpetrator(s) disguised themselves as a charitable/non-profit organization aimed at reuniting unaccompanied children with their families. Another perpetrator disguised themselves as a reputable business organization from San Antonio. According to San Antonio FBI, the payment amounts demanded by these illegitimate sources ranged from $300.00 to several thousand dollars. The press release seeks to inform the public of these occurrences and encourage the public to be extremely cautious when receiving such a request. The FBI San Antonio Office has warned the public that fraudulent schemes such as these are abound especially in instances of crisis and natural disasters. The public should be extremely wary in such times. If you have been the victim or know someone who has been a victim of such a crime contact your local FBI office.
In general to protect the public from being victimized the press release provides several guidelines:
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials asking for payments or donations door-to-door, via phone, mail, e-mail or social networking sites.
- Be skeptical of individuals requesting payment or contributions by courier, wire, or those who request your bank account or credit card number.
- Verify the legitimacy of the government agency or non-profit organization by utilizing various Internet-based resources which may confirm the correct phone number, email, and/or the group’s existence and its non-profit status rather than following a purported link to an emailed site.
- Call the official telephone number of the government agency seeking/authorizing collection of the fees/costs to ensure the request for payment is legitimate.
- Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
- Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of intended recipients in attached files which may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
- Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who seeks payment or solicits contributions: Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
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