Consumer advice: Experience cybercrime? Good luck reporting it

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With the increase in cybercrime, itís no wonder one of our readers recently reported his PayPal account was hacked. As a result, his credit card (attached to PayPal) was charged about $4,750 for two computer purchases.

This resourceful reader was able to determine that the goods were being delivered to an address is San Diego. He called local law enforcement, to no avail, because the packages were being delivered out of jurisdiction.

So he called San Diego law enforcement ó also to no avail, because he was outside San Diego jurisdiction.

What? Does anybody care? Well, not enough, apparently. Scammers know to keep the theft under $5,000 so more lenient rules apply. And credit card companies are raking in revenue from annual fees and interest payments in the billions, so they arenít too concerned about a few million dollars in theft they refund to customers.

Our reader placed calls to the FBI in Salt Lake City and to the Secret Service in Spokane. The Secret Service at least showed mild interest in the case and said they would have a local agent follow up. As of this writing, we are eagerly awaiting the Secret Service call back.

In this case, the charges were reversed on our readerís credit card so heís not out money, just time. But he remains frustrated that there will be little to no follow-up from law enforcement.

Our best advice is if you are a victim of cybercrime and want to file a complaint, go to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website at https://www.ic3.gov to report your cybercrime. What they will do isnít clear but at least you might feel better that you filled out a form expressing your concerns.

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WIRE FRAUD ALERT: If you need to wire money for a real estate transaction, donít fall victim to the wire fraud scam like this Boise couple did.

Exactly which email account the hacker infiltrated is still a matter of debate, but it appears the crook was posing as the familyís Realtor in order to steal their down payment money. This resulted in the couple losing the house because their $80,000 down payment was stolen.

This couple had saved for 17 years to buy a bigger home for their growing family. All the stars were aligned for everything to come together for a picture-perfect Christmas storybook ending. The plan was to take out an equity loan and use it for the down payment, sell the current home, then use the proceeds to pay off the loan.

In this case the money was scheduled to be wired on a Friday. The pre-close documents came Thursday, with the money needing to be wired for a Monday close. Then there was a glitch that would set the close back a day, but the wiring instructions came in on Friday afternoon from their Realtor, instructing them to move quickly to have everything closed on time. The amount matched the pre-closing documents, so no red flags were raised. The wife raced down to the bank to meet the deadline just in time. Everything appeared to go through as planned.

All systems were a go ó that is, until they received the legitimate wiring instructions on Monday morning from the loan officer. A few phone calls later, it became painfully apparent there had been a huge mistake. A rush to the bank to get the wire stopped proved fruitless. The wire had met the deadline Friday afternoon with a minute to spare.

Now the family has found out that their money is gone. The FBI is involved, but most likely the money has been wired out of the country with little to no recourse of ever being recouped. To add insult to injury, the bank where the funds were wired was contacted but they allegedly refused to give out any information because they are required to protect the account holder (even if they are a criminal).

According to the title company, this isnít a new scam. So what can a consumer do to protect himself? Title and escrow companies urge customers to confirm wire instructions verbally on a landline or face-to-face, or consider using a cashierís check instead. This couple reported that had they been aware of this type of scam, they could have avoided it.

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REMEMBER: Iím on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, Iím here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. Iím available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Iím a copywriter and consumer advocate living in Coeur díAlene.

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