An e-mail that was widely distributed to customers of Chase bank has been determined to be a fraud and the Oroville Police and Chase bank are warning the public about it.

Lt. Frank Belser of the Oroville Police Department said, "Cyber/Internet crimes of this magnitude are growing everyday. It is very important the public pays close attention to documents such as this one."

See sidebar for an example of an e-mail sent by a fraudster pretending to be from Chase Bank.

Belser said such e-mail scams will usually be written using poor English grammar and word association. "These types of scams are typically from foreign country hackers. Also, this type of crime allows the hackers to gain access to your bank accounts and personal information. Please do not fall prey to these, they can be costly," Belser added.

Even though there is not a Chase Bank in Oroville, Belser wants to warn the public about this scam because this it a typical crime using the Internet and is becoming increasingly widespread. "This will give the public some idea of what to watch out for. If you receive an e-mail from someone you don't know, delete it and do not open it. Just opening an e-mail from someone you don't know, places you at risk of


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someone getting access to your personal records on your computer," Belser said.

There are programs available, such as anti-virus, anti-SPAM, or firewall protection that function to keep "hackers" out. "You can get software that sets up zones of trust and barriers to keep destructive forces away from your property," Belser said.

The Butte County District Attorney's Economic Crime Investigator Jos Van Hout specializes in fraud investigations. He agrees with Belser that prevention is the key to protecting yourself against these crimes.

"It is best not to even open e-mails when you don't know who sent them," Van Hout said.

If you do open an e-mail and your computer starts to act strangely like slowing down, it might be because there is a virus or some other kind of program sent by a hacker that is attacking your computer.

"One thing you can do if this happens is to power-down your computer by either shutting it down or unplugging it," Van Hout said.

Also, if you receive a fraudulent e-mail claiming you have been chosen to receive a lot of money from some foreign source, do not respond, Van Hout said.

"You should delete them. If people reply to these emails, their e-mail addresses could be sold on 'guaranteed to respond' lists," Van Hout said.

These lists are also known as a "suckers list." And, it is very important to not ever open any attachments and never click on any links inside of the fraudulent e-mail because then you are vulnerable to software that could take personal information off your computer automatically.

Van Hout also wants to warn the public about people sending fake checks after using Craig's List, which is a online bulletin board where people buy and sell items. "Some use a ruse to get you to send them a check, cashier's check, or a money order. They first send you a fake check pretending to want to buy the items you have listed on the website, and then they ask you to send them money for shipping or some other reason. It's a scam. They are trying to get you to send them money. They are not interested in purchasing the items," Van Hout said.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey and Van Hout will be presenting a special Identity Theft and Fraud symposium on economic crimes that is free and open to the public. They will discuss ways to protect yourself from identity theft, fake checking manufacturing, credit card fraud, Internet fraud, telemarketing fraud, Lottery frauds, and other kinds of frauds. This symposium is on May 24 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Gold Country Casino, 4020 Olive Highway in Oroville.

"Currently, economic-type crimes are increasing to uncontrollable levels ... This symposium will inform attendees about the latest fraud schemes and their implications along with ways to combat these types of crimes. The symposium will also talk about Internet safety for kids using myspace.com as well as other topics," the D.A.'s Web site said.

The Identity Theft and Fraud symposium is a free community service from the District Attorney's Office and the County of Butte Indian Gaming Local Community Benefit. The only requirement is to register in advance. See the D.A.'s Web site to register at: www.buttecounty.net/da

"Don't miss out on this opportunity to learn about these devastating crimes and how to protect yourself," says the D.A.'s web site.

Lt. Belser, Van Hout, and the District Attorney Mike Ramsey want to raise the public's awareness on how to recognize these many frauds and remind people that "education and training equals awareness and prevention."