New feature allows citizens who have been a victim or suspect fraudulent activity to submit information directly to prosecutors through office’s website
Submitted by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office
As part of his ongoing effort to protect Erie County residents from financial crimes, District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that citizens can report information about scams or suspected fraud directly to his office through a new feature on the Erie County District Attorney’s Office website. Anyone who has been the victim or has been contacted by a suspected scammer can provide information about the incident online at www.erie.gov/reportscams.
Our office’s special investigations and prosecutions (SIP) bureau is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of cases involving fraud, identity theft and other financial crimes. Scammers are known to use various tactics to manipulate their victims in order to fraudulently obtain money and/or personal information while hiding their true identity. Therefore, these crimes are challenging to prosecute as these perpetrators can be difficult to identify and locate. While any information provided to our office will assist in investigating the incident and monitoring scam trends, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office cannot guarantee that a complaint will result in a criminal investigation or prosecution of the accused.
Earlier this week, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office issued a public warning about scam phone calls where the caller claims to be a member of the Sheriff’s Office and requests information regarding an “urgent civil matter.” In recent years, our office has received complaints from Erie County residents that reported being contacted by scammers who falsely claimed to be:
√ An IRS representative seeking payment for owed taxes
√ A utility provider threatening to cancel service
√ A Social Security Administration official reporting fraudulent activity
√ A bank or other financial institution requesting personal information
√ An online retailer seeking information for an unauthorized purchase
√ A sweepstakes representative seeking payment in order to distribute a prize
√ A student loan provider offering reduced repayment
√ A computer company asking for personal information to resolve a problem
√ An online romantic interest asking for money or gifts
Prevention is key to stopping these criminals from negatively impacting your life. It is important for our office to identify these incidents in order to educate the public about trends impacting our community.
Signs of a Scam
√ Scammers try to appear legitimate. They may pretend to be a person or an organization that you know. These criminals may use technology to change their phone number and caller ID, create fake websites or social media accounts or use other tactics to misrepresent themselves.
√ Scammers claim there is a problem or prize. They may use fear tactics to convince you that you owe money, there is a problem with your account, or a family member needs cash for an emergency. They may also try to entice you to provide personal information or pay a fee to receive a prize.
√ Scammers pressure you to act immediately. They may use threats or other tactics to urge you to give personal information or money quickly before you have time to investigate their claims.
√ Scammers demand a specific form of payment. They may insist that you send money through a wire transfer or gift card. They may also send a courier to your home to pick up the payment. Scammers may also send you a fake check in exchange for payment.
Tips to Protect Yourself from Scams
√ Do not post your phone number or any personal identifying information on social media. Scammers can easily find your personal information on the internet, which they may use in order to appear legitimate.
√ Do not respond if you receive a phone call, text message, letter, email or any request that seems suspicious. Scammers manipulate caller ID, create fake websites and use other deceptive tactics to appear legitimate. Block any unwanted calls and text messages.
√ Do not follow any instructions from an unknown person who requests your information or demands immediate payment. Never provide any personal information such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, bank account information, credit card numbers, etc., to an unknown person.
√ Do not send money. No legitimate company will request payment via prepaid gift cards, cryptocurrency, bank wire transfer, money order or courier.
√ Always verify claims with someone you trust. Resist the pressure to act immediately.
Any information provided to our office’s online scam complaint forum will remain confidential and will only be used for law enforcement investigation purposes. The Erie County District Attorney's Office is not permitted to engage in the practice of law or provide legal advice in private civil matters.
Citizens are strongly encouraged to report any incident involving a scam or other financial crime to our office. Family members, caregivers or individuals who have direct knowledge about an incident where an Erie County resident has been the victim of a scam can also report information through the DA’s office website. Reports can also be made by contacting the Erie County District Attorney’s Office SIP bureau at 716-858-2424.