Avoiding Fraud in the United States and Abroad: Consular Advice Tips
US citizens may be the victims of fraud at home or abroad. There are many different types of fraud, but they all have a common goal: monetary gain for scams. The main types of financial fraud and ways to protect against them are published on the official website US Consular Service.
A person you have not met in person quickly begins to offer you friendship, relationships, and / or marriage.
Be skeptical if a person asks for money to pay for hospital bills, visa fees or legal expenses, and / or seems to have a lot of sudden problems abroad.
In more detail, the signs of love fraud are described in the infographic on the site. Travel.state.gov.
Fraud with older relatives / family members
A person contacts his grandparents or other relatives, pretending to be a grandson, niece, nephew, or other family member who needs money right now.
A fraudster usually asks the person he contacted to keep this a secret.
Contact a family member who is allegedly in need of money immediately and directly to check the situation.
A fraudster contacts by phone or email and offers a job abroad, an opportunity to do charity work or asks someone to transport documents / items for him.
These scams often begin as a romantic relationship.
As a rule, a fraudster offers to pay all travel expenses and offers free luggage and / or asks a person to stay in a third country in order to pick up something. Drugs will be in the luggage / item (s) and the victim may be arrested at the destination.
Be careful if someone asks you to move something to another country, notify the airline and border authorities before traveling.
The contractor promises a significant cash prize, but first the recipient must pay taxes and other fees in order to win the foreign lottery.
If you did not purchase a lottery ticket in the country in question, it is unlikely that you will be able to win a prize.
US Citizens Abroad Fraud
Fraud in Turkey (wallet / money):
An unsuspecting tourist notices a wallet or a wad of money on the ground. A fraudster picks it up and asks if he belongs to this tourist, showing a bundle of currency, and tries to get the tourist to touch him. Another person comes up and claims that the wallet belongs to him, and then accuses the tourist of trying to steal it. Then two scammers either threaten to call the police if the tourist does not pay them so that they do not attract law enforcement officers, or they ask them to look at the tourist’s wallet / cash to prove that he / she did not steal them. When a tourist gets his money, they grab it and run.
Restaurant / Bar / Teahouse Fraud:
A young “English student” or attractive woman offers to show the tourist the city and then invites him / her to enjoy a meal or drink at a nearby establishment. The visitor is often seated in a dimly lit back room and presented with a fine print menu. Occasionally, a visitor's drinks can be filled with drugs for impaired vision and / or sobriety. When the bill is brought in, the host leaves and the establishment dispatches “bouncers” to force the visitor to pay the exorbitant bill before leaving the premises or being attacked.
Carpet / Arthouse Product Fraud
A young “art student” approaches a tourist (often at large tourist sites) and asks if he / she likes the work of art created by local students. The student invites the visitor to see the artwork in the studio or gallery, pours tea and provides refreshments, showing objects of art. The student then demands that the tourist buy artwork and compensate for the costs of hospitality. The same scam is used by rug sellers in many countries.
Airport Fraud / Keep an Eye on the Bag
A friendly stranger asks a person to look after his bag or wallet. The stranger leaves and returns with a policeman or someone posing as a representative of an authority. The bag may contain drugs or other illegal items. Then the criminals extort money or other valuables in order to avoid trouble with the police.
Card Games / "Thimblers"
Fraudsters are playing on crowded sidewalks in tourist areas. They use three containers (or cups) with a small ball underneath. They move them around and then stop, asking the audience to place a bet on the cup the ball is under. Their accomplices in the audience get it right the first few times, and then they let the casual tourists play. They allow tourists to win and place higher bets until a fraudster slips the ball into another cup and the tourist loses money - sometimes hundreds of dollars. In Russian, this game is called "thimbles", and the scammers are "thimblers" (approx. ForumDaily).
Fraud Protection Tips:
- Never send money to anyone abroad if you have not met in person, especially if you only talked online.
- Do not share personal information over the phone or over the Internet - not even on social media.
- Refer a person claiming to be a U.S. citizen in distress abroad in the near future U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- Contact the Foreign Citizens Support Service by calling 888-407-4747 if the person claims to be a US citizen abroad and says that the nearest US embassy or consulate will not help.
- If you are sure that the money is worth sending, consider making it through the OCS Trust program of the US Department of State, which requires the recipient to show an identification card with a photo to receive the money. Connect with US Embassy or nearest US Consulate for more details.
- File a complaint with Federal Trade Commission and the FBI on ic3.govif you are a victim of fraud.
- Report fraud involving older people to the US Senate Hotline at 1-855-303-9470 and read 10 most common methods of fraud with older people in the USA on the website of the Consular Service.
- Before traveling abroad carefully study destination.
- Be sure: if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
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