Law enforcement shares insight into fraud awareness

This week is National Fraud Awareness Week

LEWISTOWN–Fraud, as interpreted by the courts, is “a false representation of a material matter made with knowledge of its falsity and with the intent to deceive,” said Mifflin County District Attorney Christopher Torquato. In observance of International Fraud Awareness Week–Nov. 11 to 17–Torquato and local law enforcement officers encourage people to be aware of fraud and to be proactive in preventing it.

“There are many different types of fraud,” said David Clemens, chief of the Lewistown Police Department.

Examples of fraud include forging a person’s signature, taking online payments with no intention to ship or deliver the purchased items and identity theft.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Joseph Dunsmore said fraud charges are often filed as theft by deception, identity theft, insurance fraud and forgery, among other criminal offenses.

“Individuals who commit any of the aforementioned crimes could face anywhere from summary to felony charges,” Dunsmore said.

Torquato said a fraud graded at a felony one level could include a sentence of 20 years and a $25,000 fine.

In Mifflin County, access device cases are routinely prosecuted, which involve the fraudulent use of credit cards to obtain money or property. Cases involving deceptive or fraudulent business practices, which involve a person offering, selling or delivering less than what was purchased are also prosecuted often in Mifflin County.

One incident Dunsmore investigated involved an elderly man who was contacted by someone claiming to be from the American Embassy of Mexico who said the accuser’s grandchild was in police custody as the at-fault driver in a DUI crash and needed bail money. Dunsmore said the man wired nearly $10,000 before learning from his son that his grandchild was not even in Mexico.

“These cases are rarely prosecuted, due to the perpetrators commonly being from other countries,” Dunsmore said.

He went on to say that money should never be sent, in any form, to an unknown person.

“In this day and age, people should be aware that they should never provide bank account (or) social security numbers to any person as a result of a ‘phone call’ they receive, (nor) wire money,” Torquato said. “If a member of the public receives a call that they’ve won money and must pay money in order to obtain their prize, it’s a scam.”

Clemens agreed with Dunsmore and Torquato.

“Never send money to anyone claiming you have won a prize,” Clemens said. “People should always be careful of divulging any of their personal information. Legitmate businesses will rarely ask for this information over the phone. If something sounds too good to be true, it is probably some type of scam.”

According to www.fraudweek.com, International Fraud Awarness Week was established by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners as a “weeklong campaign (which) encourages business leaders and employees to proactively take steps to minimize the impact of fraud by promoting anti-fraud awareness and education.”

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