Consumer Protection

 

 


Welcome to the Denver District Attorney's Consumer Protection web resource.  As the Denver District Attorney, I have made a commitment to rooting out and prosecuting white collar crimes – especially those impacting our elderly citizens. In order to do that, the office has committed significant resources and personnel to our Economic Crimes Unit.  We hope you will find this information helpful. 

Identity Theft
Consumer Fraud
Vulnerability of the Elderly

 IDENTITY THEFT

You can access topics that interest you by clicking the links below or scrolling down the page.

What is Identity Theft?
Identity Theft Warning Signs
What Can I Do to Protect Myself?
What Do I Do If My Identity Is Stolen?
ID Theft Assistance

 What is Identity Theft?

Identity Theft occurs when a criminal takes your personal information (such as your social security number, address, birth date, bank account number, credit card number, etc.) and uses it to steal money or obtain services under your name.  The top ways identity thieves get your information is through mail theft, purse snatching, dumpster diving, and email and “phone phishing”.  Some thieves access your information by hacking into personal or business computer systems or stealing laptops that contain personal data. 

Once thieves have personal and financial information they can wreck havoc with your good financial name.  They can run up charges on your credit card, changing the billing address so it will take time before you realize what has happened.  They can open new accounts in your name, write counterfeit checks; drain your bank account; pay taxes or file for bankruptcy in your name; or get official ID issued in your name.  Thieves can also use your name and ID if they are arrested.  This situation will require you to file a legal motion for Factual Innocence

For most of us – it is not a matter of If we will be a victim of ID Theft, but rather When and How Much.

Identity Theft Warning Signs

  • Your purse or wallet is stolen.
  • Your bank account is overdrawn or there is unusual activity on your credit card.
  • Mail you are expecting doesn’t arrive, especially related to financial matters; bills you paid are still showing due.
  • You apply for a credit card or loan and are denied.

What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

We have put together a “Power Against Fraud” checklist that you might find helpful.  It is important to remember that you should implement the steps that make sense for your life and your particular situation. 

  • Freeze your Credit File http://www.denverda.org/Prosecution_Units/ECU/Alerts_and_Tips/Credit File Security Freeze.pdf
  • Use a close-fitting pouch and/or hidden wallet, instead of a purse.
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card, remove Social Security numbers from ID/health cards, and consider carrying a photocopy of your Medicare card with all but the last four digits blackened out.
  • Deposit all outgoing mail inside the Post Office rather than placing in your mailbox or blue postal box for carrier pick-up.
  • Use a cross-cut shredder on all financial mail and documents.
  • Get a free copy of your credit report once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com.
    Sign up for your Colorado NO CALL list (303-776-2678 or at www.coloradonocall.com.)
  •  Sign up for the National DO NOT CALL list (www.ftc.gov/donotcall or by calling 1-888-382-1222.)
  • Request charities and those with whom you have established business relationships to put you on their “Do Not Call” and “Opt Out” lists.
  • Reduce e-mail and junk /mail through the Direct Marketing Association at www.the-dma.org ($1 fee)
  • Make an annual charitable giving plan and do not give to charities who solicit by telephone or door-to-door.
  • Never sign a contract/document or make an investment without getting a second opinion from a trusted advisor.
  • ‘OPT OUT’ of credit reporting agencies’ credit card solicitations at: 1-888-567-8688 or www.optoutprescreen.com.
  • Call your credit card(s) customer service number(s) to ‘OPT OUT’ of marketing programs, including Convenience checks’.
  • Read the Denver DA’s monthly fraud alerts at www.denverda.org/consumer_alerts

What Do I Do If My Identity Is Stolen?

Resolving the consequences of identity theft is left largely to victims.  Act quickly and assertively, and keep records/copies of all contacts and reports.  The ACTION PLAN FOR VICTIMS OF IDENTITY THEFT will outline necessary steps to take and give you tools to organize yourself as you go through the process. 

 Identity Theft Assistance
                                                                
You are not responsible for losses from ID theft.  Your credit should not be permanently affected.   No legal action should be taken.  Cooperate, but don’t be coerced into paying a fraudulent debt.

Federal Trade Commission:  www.consumer.gov/idtheft or 1-877-ID-Theft
Colorado Attorney General:  www.ago.state.co.us/idtheft
Identity Theft Resource Center:    www.idtheftcenter.org
Denver Motor Vehicles:  303-205-8387
Denver District Attorney's Office:  720-913-9179
Victims’ Toolkit:  http://www.idvictim.org/index.cfm?pagename=homepage

CONSUMER FRAUD

 The Denver District Attorney's Office prosecutes hundreds of cases of consumer fraud every year.  We are particularly sensitive to cases involving the elderly and those considered to be “at-risk”.  While 18% of the Denver population is elderly and “at-risk”, over 30% of the cases we handle in the Economic Crimes Unit fall in that category. 

The Denver District Attorney's Office and AARP ElderWatch – www.aarpelderwatch.org – wants every Coloradan to minimize their risk of consumer fraud by remembering the 3 R’s.  Follow the steps below to ensure your protection against fraud:

Recognize

  • Be cautious of unsolicited mail or email.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be skeptical of any offer using the terms, “Free”, “No Risk”, or “no Obligation”.
  • High pressured sales tactics that insist on immediate decisions are to be avoided.
  • Be wary of copanies that want to be paid in cash, or through messenger or overnight mail.
  • Be careful of any source that is unwilling to provide all information in writing.

Refuse

  • When in doubt, say “No”.  Trust your instincts.
  • Do not answer the door to anyone not known to you.
  • Do not make hasty decisions.  Consult trusted professionals before committing to anything.
  • Hang up on cold callers and put yourself on the No call Lists.

Report

  • Denver District Attorney's Fraud Hotline – 720-913-9179
  • AARP ElderWatch Hotline – 1800-222-4444 or www.aarpelderwatch.org
  • Colorado Attorney General – 1800-222-4444
  • Securities and Exchange Commission –
    Denver Regional Office –303-844-1000
  • Federal Trade Commission – 1-877-FTC-HELP

VULNERABILITY OF THE ELDERLY

Colorado’s older citizens lose millions of dollars every year to financial exploitation. Con artists deliberately target older adults, preying on their loneliness, trusting natures, and lack of financial savvy. Adults over the age of 60 make up 18% of the population in Denver; but they account for over 30% of the victims in the Denver District Attorney’s Economic Crime Unit. Of those who prey on the elderly, two-thirds of the perpetrators are known to the victim, either as care giver, relative or trusted advisor.

Vulnerable Circumstances

  • Living alone and isolated; lonely; no family members or friends in the immediate area from whom to seek advice.
  • Lack of knowledge on financial, legal and insurance matters; little attention paid to financial accounts. Inexperienced and unsophisticated investors.
  • Over-dependence on one caregiver or advisor, particularly if that person is financially dependent, controlling or seeks to further isolate the at-risk adult.
  • Overly trusting and charitable causing victim to project trust on perpetrators: “He wouldn’t tell me I needn’t a new roof if it wasn’t true.”
  • Refusal of help - don’t seek a second opinion.
Signs of Financial Exploitation

Physical Signs

  • Unusual activity in bank accounts: numerous withdrawals from ATMs, bounced checks, credit card accounts maxed out.
  • Personal belongings such as jewelry, antiques, and silverware missing.
  • Numerous unpaid bills, overdue rent, when a caregiver is to be paying.
  • Adult is living well below his/her means and complaining of not having enough money, no food, poorly dressed, lack of heat.
  • Eviction notice arrives when the adult thought they owned their house.

Care Giver Exploitation

  • Care giver tries to isolate the adult. Tells the adult other friends and family don’t want to see him/her. Care giver has total control.
  • Care giver asks only financial questions. Has an unusual interest in the amount of money spent on the care of the adult; concern that too much is being spent. Refusing to spend money on the adult’s care.
  • Care giver is evasive about financial arrangements. Makes up implausible stories about the adult’s finances.
  • New acquaintances expressing emotional, undying affection for the at-risk adult.

Legal Exploitation

  • Power of Attorney given when the adult is unable to comprehend their financial situation, and is not capable of giving valid Power of Attorney.
  • Recent changes of title of house in favor of a friend when the adult is incapable of understanding the nature of the transaction.
  • Recent revisions to the Will when the adult is clearly incapable of taking such action.
  • Adult says they have been signing papers but doesn’t know what they are.
  • Promises of life-long care in exchange for a Will or deeding of property.

Why Elderly Victims Don’t Complain

  • Belief that he/she is to blame
  • Lack of alternatives
  • Fear of not being believed
  • Fear of separation from home and family
  • Economic dependence on abuser
  • Fear of the criminal justice system


Information provided by Identity Theft Resource Center www.idtheftmostwanted.org