Crime Prevention Tips
IS THAT ONLINE PHARMACY A FAKE? HERE'S HOW TO FIND OUT
Talk about frightening: Only 3 percent of online pharmacies meet state and federal laws, yet a new government survey finds that one in four Internet customers has purchased prescription medications from a pharmacy they found online.
At the same time, says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nearly 30 percent surveyed said they lack confidence in making safe online medication purchases.
The risks for consumers in buying from fraudulent, cut-rate online pharmacies is that they could get fake drugs that are contaminated, past their expiration date or contain no active ingredient, the wrong amount of active ingredient or even toxic substances, such as arsenic and rat poison, the FDA warns.
To protect consumers from fake online pharmacies, the FDA has launched a national awareness campaign and a new website with resources for patients and caregivers.
Called BeSafeRx – Know Your Online Pharmacy:
the site provides advice for figuring out who a consumer is buying from when they order medication online, and whether the medication they’re buying really matches what their doctor prescribed.
It includes tips on how to spot illegal pharmacies, links to state databases of licensed pharmacies and explanations of all the dangers of rogue pharmacies.
“Our goal is to increase awareness,” FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., told the Associated Press, “not to scare people away from online pharmacies. We want them to use appropriate pharmacies.”
Fraudulent and illegal online pharmacies often offer deeply discounted products, she added. “If the prices seem too good to be true, they probably are.”
The campaign against counterfeit drugs comes after some high-profile cases earlier this year: In February and again in April, the FDA warned doctors and cancer clinics about fake Avastin being sold by a shady wholesaler claiming to be in Montana, although the vials had originated in Asia or Eastern Europe.
Many rogue online pharmacies also claim to be based in Canada, because Americans know that medicines are cheaper there and they assume they’re getting a deal from a safe supplier.
Dangerous drugs aren’t the only risk from questionable online pharmacies. The websites can also infect your computer with viruses, sell your personal and financial information to other rogue websites and Internet scammers, or charge you for products you never ordered or received.
According to the FDA, patients should only buy prescription medicine through online pharmacies that:
require a valid prescription from a doctor or other health care professional
are located in the United States
have a licensed pharmacist available for consultation
are licensed by the patient’s state board of pharmacy
Click here to view the Fall 2012 Crime Prevention Newsletter.
PAYDAY LOANS: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?
Preston White, a Killeen, Texas retiree, wanted to get his daughter money for her family fast. Less than an hour after walking into a payday/auto title loan store, he was able to secure $4,000 using his truck as collateral. White soon realized what the payday/auto title loan staff hadn't made clear: At the end of 30 days, he could either pay off the entire loan (which amounted to more than $5,000 after fees and interest) or pay $1,300 to save his truck from being repossessed for 30 more days. This $1,300 fee would be charged every 30 days until the entire loan, its interest and all fees were paid in full.
White, like many others before him, had inadvertently stumbled into the world of predatory payday and auto-title loans, which trap consumers into cycle of debt. Unable to pay the full amount back by the due date, borrowers often renew their loans several times before fully paying them off, incurring exorbitantly high fees each time.
Payday loans are cash advances due by the borrower's next payday. Auto title loans are similar but are secured with car titles. Borrowers of these two types of loans can incur fees from both their lenders and their banks and lose their vehicles, even if they've paid hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest and fees.
In some cases lenders can charge an annual percentage rate (APR) of more than 500 percent. By operating as "credit services organizations," these lenders escape regulatory oversight that apply to other lenders. They do billions of dollars in business around the state each year.
These lending outfits offer what seems to be a quick fix to financial problem, they hand out thousands of dollars with as little documentation as a bank statement, a pay stub or a car title. They tout "no credit restrictions" and no background check.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Read the fine print.
DEBIT CARD VS. CREDIT CARD FRAUD
Do you know the difference between debit card fraud and credit card fraud? Consider the following scenario:
You go on vacation and you use your debit card for restaurants and entertainment. After a few days you find that your debit card is declined but you don’t know why. You have plenty of money in your account. You check your account on...line, or you contact your bank, only to discover your account is drained. In fact, your account is in the negative. Someone at one of the restaurants or entertainment venues skimmed your debit card number and has drained your account with fraudulent purchases.
The easiest way to explain the difference between a debit card and a credit card is this-debit card=YOUR money. Credit card=the BANKS money. When thieves drain your debit card account they are stealing YOUR money. When thieves get your credit card number they steal the BANKS money. Depending on the account will depend how quickly your financial institution recovers YOUR/THEIR money.
If you find yourself in this situation the first thing you need to do is file a police report. Most financial institutions won’t do anything to help you until you do. After you file a report then contact your financial institution and report the fraud. This is where you will see a difference depending on the type of account. Be sure to have charge receipts handy because you will need to verify your purchases vs. fraudulent purchases.
If the fraud involves your credit card then you may be responsible for the first $50, but this amount may vary depending on your financial institution. The bank will work to recover the stolen funds, but may end up chalking it up to “the cost of doing business.” The fraudulent charges will most likely come off your account. But in the case of a debit card, the bank is trying to recover YOUR money, so that may not be a priority for them. In fact, it may take several days or weeks before the bank credits YOUR account with YOUR money, if they credit your account.
So how do you prevent being a victim of debit/credit card fraud? With today’s technology more and more people use plastic over cash. Use your credit card for charges as much as possible, but make sure you pay off those charges each month from your debit account.
Use your debit card at an ATM to get cash. Anytime you hand off your debit/credit card to someone and it is out of your sight you run the risk of being a fraud victim so check your accounts frequently. Online banking makes this easy and quicker to detect.
PROTECTING YOUR CASH AND CREDIT CARDS WHILE TRAVELING
Heavily populated tourist areas are prime locations for pickpockets. Men traditionally keep their wallets in their back pocket and many men still keep their cash in their wallets along with their credit cards. Lose your wallet and you lose all of your assets for your trip.
Here's a tip: Wrap your cash, identification and one or two credit cards with a heavy rubber band and place them in your front pocket. Lock your wallet in a safe place. That way if anyone tries to reach in your front pocket the rubber band will catch on the pocket liner and alert you.
Mail provides the easiest method of identity theft.
- Purchase a locking mailbox that either mounts on the front of your home or on a post near the road.
- Shred unwanted mail, especially credit card applications and any other documents with your name, date of birth and social security information.
- Don’t leave outgoing mail in your mail slot. Use a drop box.
- Empty wallets and purses of unneeded identification cards, including your social security card.
- Memorize Personal Identification Numbers (PIN).
- Make sure you are receiving statements and bills each month.
- Protect your account numbers and social security number.
- Verify that no new accounts have been opened in your name, and that closed accounts are inactive by obtaining a free credit reports annually at: www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
Beware of scam “catch-phrases” such as:
- Cash only-Why is cash necessary rather than a check or credit card? Once you hand over the cash, it’s gone forever.
- Secret Plans-Why are you being asked not to tell anyone? Secret may equate to illegal.
- Get Rich Quick-Should always be investigated. Often require you to purchase over-priced materials from specific vendors. Details are often very vague as to how you will make money.
- Something for Nothing-nothing is FREE. Anytime you are promised something for nothing, you normally get nothing!
- Contests-Normally a come-on to draw you into a money-losing scheme, or a way to obtain personal information.
- Today Only or Last Chance-Be wary of any program that requires you to act quickly with little time to think or investigate.
- Too Good to be True-In most cases it is.
- Left-Over Materials-may be defective or stolen.
CONTRACTORS AND HOME IMPROVEMENT
Any contractor that performs work in the Commonwealth and earns over $5,000 per year must be registered with the PA Attorney General’s Office.
- They must carry $50,000 liability insurance.
- Must provide a contract for the work to be performed.
- They may only require 1/3 (not half) of the estimate up front.
- The consumer has 3 days to cancel the contract.
Consumers can search the PA Attorney General’s website for registered contractors at: http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/hicsearch/ or call 1-888-520-6680.
Sweepstakes are the most common form of fraud according to the FEDERAL Trade Commission.
- Seniors lose about $35 million annually in prizes or sweepstakes.
- It is against federal law to play a foreign lottery on the telephone or through the mail.
- The only way someone’s name was “randomly selected” was because they were picked out of a phone book or some other database.
- NEVER, NEVER, NEVER send any money to secure a prize. Legitimate lotteries don’t operate that way.
- Scams usually want people to wire money but once money is wired through a wire service it’s GONE.
- Here’s the bottom line…if you didn’t play, how did you win? Best thing to do with a lottery notice is to throw it in the trash.
- “Your favorite grandchild” tells the victim that he or she desperately needs him to wire money (car trouble, bail money, lost passport or other emergency).
- “Grandchild” begs victim not to tell his parents or any family members about it.
- Imposter doctor informs grandparent that grandchild has been in a horrible accident and requests that money be wired immediately.
- Imposter law enforcement agent tells grandparent that grandchild has been arrested and requests that money be wired immediately.
- Trust but VERIFY!
Holidays are synonymous with charity and kindness. Natural disasters, such as 9/11 and earthquakes trigger emotions that sometimes cloud financial judgment. Before donating any money to a charity, verify that the charity is legitimate on the Pennsylvania Department of State website. Not only are legitimate charities listed but their operating expenses are listed along with administrative costs, in other words how much of your donation goes toward administrative fees and salaries, and what actually goes toward the people the charity is designed to help. You can go to their website at: http://web.dos.state.pa.us/cgi-bin/Charities/char_form.cgi or call them toll-free at (800) 732-0999.
ELDER ABUSE AND POWER OF ATTORNEY
Pennsylvania’s elderly population continues to grow. As people live longer they also face more problems with chronic illness and disabilities. Many seniors live alone which makes them vulnerable to injuries, exploitation or mistreatment by someone they depend on for care. Some seniors may need assistance with financial matters and appoint friends or family members as power of attorney, only to find that their money is disappearing with no explanation of what it is being used for.
It is estimated that for every case of elder abuse reported, five go unreported. In the case of financial exploitation, for every case reported, twenty-five go unreported.
The Lancaster County Office of the Aging Protective Services Division and the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office have partnered to form an Elder Abuse Response Unit. The mission of the unit is to investigate reports of abuse (physical or financial) and, if necessary, provide protective services.
If you are a victim, or you suspect a friend or family member is a victim of elder abuse or financial exploitation, contact your local police or the Lancaster County Office of the Aging Protective Services Division at: 717-299-7979