Friday, March 25, 2011

Loan Remodification Scams

I wanted to put this information out there because it was something that I came across that I feel very few people know about (and then I swear I will get to the next gypsy post).  In every time of crisis there are those who will take advantage of anyone they can no matter the consequences to the intended victims.  Today I spoke with a friend of mine who is also a police officer who had no idea that this scam existed.  He didn't know because it is not common sense or knowledge that this is a scam.  I am talking about SOME of the loan modification companies that exist out there.  I say some because like every legitimate function of the world there is a 1% rule.  That is 1% cause 90% of the problems (I might get repetitious in later posts about this, but it is so true).

There are many companies out there that exist in this time to assist people in loan modifications.  They are there mainly to hold your hand and do most of the work for you.  Many people are trying to stay on top of there bills, jobs, kids, and life in general and just do not have the time or energy to be able to do the massive amount of paperwork, e-mails, phone calls, and/or meetings to go through a loan modification.  So, they hire a company to do it for them.  In many ways I view them as I do credit protection companies like Lifelock.  You can do all the work yourself, but they give piece of mind because you don't have to do the work.  But, there is nothing that either of these companies can do that you cannot do yourself.

Loan modifications were developed by the federal government in a time of crisis to assist those who need it.  They created rules and guidelines to try to keep away those that would try to take away from the system and gave those rules to the loan holders, i.e. banks.  When contacting a bank you can work with them to try to create a solution to your loan problems, or you can hire a loan modification company to do it for you.  Either way the process should take about 8 weeks, give or take a few weeks depending on the bank.

Unfortunately, there are loan modification companies that are taking advantage of this and destroying people's lives in the process.  So here is the biggest indicator that will tell you that a company is trying to scam you:

If they charge you prior to you obtaining a loan modification, then they are breaking the law!

I have investigated these crimes before and I knew that this was illegal, we even did a press release, but that only gets absorbed by a small amount of people.  I spoke with an agent with the FBI early today to confirm that my experiences are the same all over the country in regards to the practices of these fraudulent companies.  Typically the suspects in these cases hire employees to work for them and bring in clients, but never tell these employees (some have been fired for asking questions).  They advertise everywhere to make themselves seem reputable.  In the end they look good, sound good, and give a sales pitch that make it seem like a loan modification will definitely happen.

The problem is that these companies tell you to stop paying your mortgage and not to worry about letters or calls from the bank because they are just trying to intimidate you.  Some places will even forge letters from the bank to show you progress on the loan modification.  Many people get so far behind that they get foreclosed on and lose their home.  By the time people realize that the company is a sham and complaint to police the suspects are gone.  They evacuate their business, not even telling employees, and move a few miles away with a new business name.  All of this within a year of starting the first business.

On average these criminals will deceive around 200 victims before moving or getting caught.  At anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000 made from each victim these crooks will continue this activity until people realize the scam and stay away.  If they can't scam people more room will be made for the legitimate businesses.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I have heard from a little birdie that there are some people out there that want to hear about Gypsies.  Well, I feel that it would be a great time to talk about them since we are heading into gypsy season (explanation coming in the post).  There are different kinds of Gypsies out there today and all the ones that I am going to talk about are criminals.  First, let me distinguish the between two types:  Gypsies and Travelers.  Gypsies have an Eastern European heritage with no real country of origin and they even have their own language, while Travelers are exactly the same in their scams, but are deep into their Irish, Scottish, or English heritage.

I say that these two groups have the same types of scams because I am going to explain what will happen over the next few months as the better weather approaches.  For the sake of ease I will just use Gypsies as my examples.  Gypsies have their own culture and traditions which is not a bad thing in most cases.  However, in this case they thrive off of scamming people, usually the elderly.  If you have ever heard in the news of a people pretending that they are the water or electric company to enter a house and burglarize it, I guarantee that it was Gypsies.  They do this by distraction.  While one or two people distract the occupant in the front of the house 3 of more enter the rear of the house to steal.  It is always well orchestrated and fluid so no one knows what happened until it is too late.

From a very young age Gypsies are taught to identify houses where older people live.  They do this for two reasons: 1) the elderly are more trusting of people that appear to be working in official capacity, and 2) elderly usually have a lot of cash and valuables in their house.  It is important to spread the word about these scams.  If there is any question that someone in your neighborhood actually works for the water company or electric company, etc call the police.  These criminals rob people of millions of dollars every year.  They live in very specific areas of the country and travel to commit these crimes.  When they do they bring children along as young as 11 to help them commit these crimes.

There is another form of scam that this group of people commit as well.  Many Gypsies will go door to door, especially to the elderly, and offer free estimates for work, or to do a repair for so cheap that no one would pass up the opportunity.  The common scams of this nature are roof and driveway scams.

With a driveway scam the gypsies will normally look for a blacktop driveway that needs touch up.  They will give a great deal and instead of spending a few days on resealing the driveway they will coat it with oil to make it look nice.  Unfortunately the opposite effect is created.  The oil will degrade the driveway to a worse condition over time.  By the time this is noticed the criminals are already on their way to the next city and the victims have very few details to give to the police.  What may cost the Gypsy a few bucks for a can of oil and and few house of time will reward them with a couple thousand dollars.  But the owner of the house will be out that money and more when they need the driveway to REALLY be fixed.

The roof scam in the San Francisco Bay Area usually only goes one way.  A free estimate is offered to a home owner.  The crook comes into the house and pulls some deteriorated wood from his pocket after the "inspection" and tells that same homeowner how they need to work on the roof TODAY.  A great price is offered.  The Gypsies will normally stay in the roof most of the day hammering nails into the same board to make it sound like they are working.  Then they get paid for basically hitting 30-40 nails into the same 2'x4' in the roof.  The other scam with the roofs has to do with coating the roof for the snow and if anyone wants to know about that please ask.  In the end the best thing to do is to make sure that anyone that comes to your house is licensed and to research them.  Nothing needs to be done THAT day.  If they are that insistent, then it is because they want to get in, get your money and get out.  You can always find out if some one's license is real by contacting the state contractor's licensing board.

Hopefully this is enough information to start off with.  I will get into fortune tellers, hi-tech gypsies, and their culture more in later posts, but I thought that this would be a great starting ground as we head into the better weather.  Because gypsies to have home towns that they live in about 4-7 months a year.  The rest of the time these gypsies travel outside their hometown radius to commit these crimes.  It may not seem like much, but they are responsible for a least $900 million/year in thefts through these cons and they are getting better all the time.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nigerian Scams

While I was working as a detective I was amazed at the sheer number of people who called the police because they had fallen for these Nigerian scams.  These scams known as "419s" in Nigeria.  Have several different approaches to the victim.  Via e-mail or snail mail a letter is sent to the victim claiming to be a Nigerian Prince who has been exiled.  With your help, financially of course, you can help obtain his millions of dollars that are being held from him.  The prince will reward you handsomely for your help.

The other most common approach is an "official" letter from the Canadian Lottery letting you know that you have won some large amount of money.  However, because you live in the United States they can't release these funds until you until you pay a certain amount of taxes for the lottery winnings.

Each of these methods will ask for the funds to be sent via Western Union to a specific address.  This makes it seem legit because you know where your money will be sent.  However, once money is sent via Western Union it can be picked up anywhere in the world, regardless of intended destination.  The other part that really irks me is that after they have gotten money from you they continue to prod at you for more money.  They up the stakes and ask for more because they believe that you don't care about the money, or you are just gullible.

Sadly it is the elderly that have faith in humanity that fall prey to these hopeful scams the most.  In the end there is very little your local government can do.  These crooks usually live outside the United States and are not possible for them to find.  If you know someone who receives these letters please let them know that it is without a doubt a scam and if they give away there money it will be gone forever.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Identity Theft

For upcoming blog posts I thought that I would let people know some of the areas that I would like to cover to help people understand how much this broad term covers.  Since identity theft is a act that causes someone else to gain financially or criminally by using your information I feel that maybe people would want to know some of these areas:

Credit Card Fraud
Debit Card Fraud
Check Fraud
Mail Theft
Real Estate Fraud
False Personation
Fiduciary Elder Abuse
Grand Theft
Medical Fraud
Theft by False Pretense
Grand Theft

Along with these different types of fraud there are numerous scams that are our there in the mail, on the computer, over the phone, and in person that people should be aware of.  I will be covering these areas as time goes on, but if anyone out there wants to know about anything first please let me know.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mail Theft

Mail theft is still one of the most common forms of identity theft out there today.  The reason this is such a target is because of the amount of information that remains unprotected by so many people.  With pre-approved credit card mailers, bills that come on a frequent basis and financial documents that are mailed (bank and credit card statements) criminals can obtained all the information that they need to to form "identity packets" that they can either use or sell to others to use.

However, on top of this many people also use their mailboxes so that they can send out their bills.  This is like gold to criminals because it gives them access to all of your check information.  A check not only contains you name, address, and phone number, but also your bank account number and the routing number for the bank on the bottom of the check.  This is more than enough information for someone to create counterfeit checks, use your account information to their own ends, or simply "wash" the check so that the check is written to the name of the crook.

Mail is extemely important, but luckily there are more ways to protect yourself.  I suggest that if you have a mailbox that is not secured that you contact you local post office and ask them for a list of approved locking mailboxes.  These mailboxes will allow you to receive mail, but keep unwanted hands away from your bank statements and personal information.  Also, if you must send your bills through the mail then drop them off at the post office; however, I would suggest using online bill pay.  Some people fear this because they are afraid of hackers.  Please note: If there is a hacker good enough to get into the banks, which is HIGHLY unlikely, it wouldn't matter if you use their online services or not when they steal information.

This is a small glance at security of mail, but this is also what can commonly be done to inform people about possible dangers and remedies.  If you have the desire to learn more you can find out more with the United States Postal Inspectors website:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Season is here....beware

As Christmas is approaching everyone is shopping more and more, the more you are out there shopping the more you expose yourself to scams.  Of those scams that are out there is one you may never even know have happened.  Mainly because those that you are giving presents may be too polite to let you know the truth.  The truth is that you may give someone a gift, even in person, and they may never receive a thing.


One of the most popular things to do in this season, and easiest, is to buy a friend or family member a gift card.  Most of these gift cards can be redeemed online by their recipients because they have a code on the back that you can use at the appropriate website; however, there are many retail stores that don't protect these cards from the prying eyes of crooks.

The old scam was that a criminal would, in the times before cell phones, hang out at airports and steal phone card numbers from unsuspecting travelers.  Then sell that information to someone that would want to make cheap phone calls.  The evolution of the scam has changed only slightly.  When gift cards are placed in areas of a store that are open to the public it gives criminals a chance to observe them, record their numbers on the back, and store them for later.  As time goes by that same criminal goes online and checks to see when a balance is made available on the card numbers that they have.

Many people will buy gift cards 1-2 weeks prior to giving them to someone.  The person that receives them will wait as least as long to use the cards.  Which means that a month could go by before anyone realizes that a crook has used the card first.  A lot of people will not even mention the loss because they just don't want to embarass or worry the person that gave them the present.  In order to prevent this from happening please be aware of where the gift cards are located before you are buying.  Only buy cards that are behind the register and only accesible by employees or cards whose numbers are securely hidden and have not been tampered with at all.  If you happen to be at a store that has gift cards that could easily be compromised let the managment know.  Chances are that they did not know about the scam and they will be willing to protect their customers.  Most customers looking for gift cards go straight to the registers anyway.  So, it would not hurt them to move the gift cards to a secure location.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Debit Card Skimming

Over the past several years people have become more used to paying for items with plastic.  Credit cards have been used over the years, but as debit cards have become more popular new opportunities have risen for criminals.  The security measures that seem to make debit cards safe have created a weakness that is being exploited.  Skimming devices are used by criminals to capture your information so that a crook can use it to take your information, make their own cards, and use them to take cash directly from your bank account.

There are two types of these skimming devices: internal and external.  The external devices can be discovered by most anyone because it is visible on the outside of the device that you are using to pay.  If you have a suspicion that there may be a skimmer at a bank or business you should inform that location in order to stop the crook from getting anyone's information.

Internal devices are harder to discover because they are...well...internal.  As skimming has become more prolific criminals have gone out of there way to place devices on the inside of POS (point-of-sale) devices.  The businesses themselves are your only line of defense to stop your information from being obtained.


I have discovered that there is a way to prevent the crooks from achieving their goal of collecting your debit card number and PIN.  Most debit cards have VISA and Mastercard logos on them.  This means that they are credit cards too.  This means that when you make a purchase at a store and they ask for your debit card number all you have to do is press "cancel" and you will be given the option of canceling the purchase or processing the transaction as credit.  Without your PIN the crooks can't use your debit card to obtain cash from your bank account.  Checking on your account on a regualr basis is best way to make sure that your account is not being taken advantage of.