The Butte County District Attorney's Office is working to raise awareness about economic crimes and frauds. The D.A.'s website has a list of scams to warn the public. Identity theft is when "a con artist appropriates another's name, address, Social Security number or other identifying information and uses that information to open new credit card accounts, take over existing accounts, obtain loans in the victim's name or steal funds from the victim's checking, savings, or investment accounts," the website said. Protect yourself by not carrying your SSN in case your purse or wallet are lost or stolen. Other ways thieves steal information is by "fraudulently accessing your credit report by posing as an employer, loan officer, or landlord," the website said. Some thieves steal mail to get credit cards, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers and tax information. Some thieves also go through trash bins for credit card and loan applications. Other common scams and frauds listed are:

• Prize Promotions/Sweepstakes Offers. These scams are the majority of all fraudulent telemarketing calls. "Usually, they are initiated with a brochure or postcard sent to the victim to inform them that they have been selected to win a fabulous prize, such as a car, jewelry, cash, or a vacation package," the website said. "Victims are told to call an 800 or 900 number, possibly subjecting themselves to the long distance charges. Victims who call the number are often told that


in order to receive their prize, they must send the company a check to cover shipping, insurance, storage costs, etc. . . .Victims do not ever receive anything of value from the company."

• Investment Scams. "Telemarketers may sell gemstones, rare coins, FCC licenses, oil wells, and stocks. The promise of high returns within a short period of time is used to entice the victims," the website said. Follow-up calls made to investors try to get them to send more money. "Once the consumer receives their purchase, if it is a tangible item, he discovers that it is either worthless, or worth far less than the cost of the purchase. Investors find it difficult to learn about their investment. Those who do receive an accounting of their investment find it is impossible to understand.

•Fake Charities. Telemarketers running charity scams tend to be either those who do not work for a charity and those who work for a charity but keep a high percentage of the money that they collect, the website said.

• Telephone Billing Scams. Two types of these scams are: "Cramming" that bills customers for optional phone services that they did not order, and "slamming" which is the switching of a consumer's telephone carrier phone service without the consumer's knowledge or consent. Consumers may not pay enough attention to their phone bill to notice the fraud. Even if they do notice, this does not happen until they get a bill, meaning that an entire month of charges may have accrued, the website said.

• Lotteries. Lottery scams offer a chance to join a lottery club and to buy tickets in state and foreign lotteries. "Upon sending money, victims are either told they did not win the lottery, or that their winnings have been reinvested for them. Victims are occasionally given small amounts of money as winnings to induce them to continue sending money. Lottery rooms that contact U.S. residents concerning the purchase of foreign lottery tickets violate federal law, and those who bring foreign lottery tickets into the U.S. for the purpose of selling them are committing a felony. It is also illegal to mail lottery tickets or letters or circulars offering prizes dependent on lotteries," the website said.

• Credit Repair/Debt Consolidation. "Varying types of scams exist that require victims to pay an up-front fee, usually to procure a loan or to receive credit repair assistance, or employment. . . . Advertising or postcard promotions are generally the method used to initiate contact with potential victims. The ads promise to fix credit problems regardless of credit history. Following this initial offer, a number of different scams can evolve."

• College Loans. These scams begins with a newspaper ad like 'College loans available.' The ad wants consumers to send a processing fee to the company, which in turn will be used to procure a loan for the consumer to use on a college education. Once the consumer sends money to the company pursuant to the ad, they may never hear from the company again, the website said.

• Employment Scams. "This scam begins with a newspaper ad about helping people find jobs. Once people respond to the ad, they are told a job is guaranteed in any area of the country they choose, if they mail the company a fee. "This fee is usually hundreds of dollars. Once the consumer sends the money to the 'headhunter' company, they generally do not hear of any employment opportunities," the website.

• Travel Scams. These scams tend to start with a postcard or other mailing telling the consumers that they have won a free or heavily discounted trip. Consumers who call to find out about the trip are told that they must purchase a travel package before being given their prize. Upon purchasing the travel package, consumers find that there are so many restrictions on the vacation that it is impossible to take . . ."

To report any type of fraud, call the District Attorney's toll free hotline at: 1 (866) DA Fraud or 1 (866) 323-7283. For more information, see the D.A.'s website at: