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Scammers never rest

March 19, 2012
The Daily News

New scams are being reported in Michigan and Wisconsin, authorities said.

The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions is urging consumers to be on the alert for phone calls from fake debt collectors.

In Michigan, the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation warning Michigan consumers of several different types of phishing scams related to financial institutions and transactions.

These scammers never rest.

In Wisconsin, the would-be scammers attempt to collect money on loans that consumers never received or on loans consumers did receive but for amounts they do not owe.

In other cases, the callers attempt to recover money on loans consumers received but authorization to collect the debt has not been given by the creditors.

"DFI has received calls from dozens of concerned Wisconsin consumers who have been targeted by these callers," Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Peter Bildsten said.

"They often use high-pressure, threatening tactics in their attempts to dupe consumers. In some cases, they may be armed with personal information such as a bank account number," Bildsten said.

DFI issued these tips for consumers who are suspicious of a caller who is attempting to collect debt over the phone:

- Ask the caller for his name, company, street address, and telephone number.

- Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written "validation notice" through the U.S. mail.

- The notice must include the amount of the alleged debt, the name of the collection agency, the name of the creditor you allegedly owe, and your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

- Stop speaking with the caller.

- If you have not been provided a written notice from the collector, refuse to speak with the caller. If you continue to receive calls, hang up on the caller or do not answer subsequent calls.

- Do not give the caller personal financial or other sensitive information.

- Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information such as your bank account, credit card or Social Security number unless you know who you're dealing with. Scam artists such as fake debt collectors can use your information to commit identity theft.

- Contact your creditor. If the debt is legitimate - but you think the collector may not be - contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.

- Report the call. Contact the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions at 1-800-452-3328, or the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357.

In Michigan, authorities reports several different types of phishing scams.

Phishing is an attempt, through electronic communication, to acquire personal information such as social security numbers, account numbers, usernames and passwords by posing as a legitimate entity.

"Consumers need to have their guard up 24/7 and be cautious of any electronic communication appearing to be from a financial institution," Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation Commissioner Kevin Clinton said. "Creative cyber crooks are using websites, emails and text messages to entice account holders into divulging sensitive personal information."

There are number of different variations of financial phishing scams, including:

- Scammers claiming to be banks or credit unions, have phished for victims by using consumer email addresses that contain identifying employment and educational information. Through emails, scammers have sought personal financial information by notifying consumers that there are issues with their accounts.

- Posing as a legitimate financial institution, fraudsters have targeted consumers using cell phone area codes to send text messages notifying them that that there is problem with their account. Consumers are instructed to call toll-free numbers where they are asked to provide personal information. This tactic may also be called "smishing."

- Scam artists are using many different types of fraudulent emails claiming to be from the FDIC, the Federal Reserve and other federal financial agencies. The bogus emails have included notifications regarding the closing of accounts, problems with financial transactions and issues involving wire transfers. In many instances, the emails direct consumers to phony websites containing malware, which infects computers and attempts to steal personal information.

The Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation suggests these tips to help consumers avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:

- If you get an email, text message or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on any links.

- If you are concerned about your financial accounts, contact your institution using a telephone number you know to be genuine or visit the institution in person.

- You can confirm information regarding financial institutions by contacting OFIR at 1-877-999-6442 or checking online at

- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly.

- Don't email personal or financial information.

- Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges.

- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.



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