Monday, Aug. 31, 2009 | 2 a.m.
- DMV making identify thieves' faces their own worst enemy (8-26-2009)
- Mortgage fraud is expected to escalate (7-17-2009)
- Toast this recession loser: Ponzi schemes (6-16-2009)
- Complications abound when identity stolen is a patient's (6-14-2009)
Beyond the Sun
Elisabeth Daniels has spoken at foreclosure seminars for groups of 600. She’s also given fraud awareness lectures for audiences of three. As chairwoman of the Nevada Fight Fraud Task Force, Daniels takes the crowd she can get.
The task force was formed in 2007 under Nevada’s Business and Industry Department, and since then, members pulled from law enforcement, business groups and government agencies have been helping consumers identify and avoid fraud. This educational outreach has become more important since the state’s Consumer Affairs Division, which investigated fraud complaints, was shuttered in June because of budget cuts. Daniels is now taking task force information to public events, hoping to prevent people from falling victim.
What kind of fraud is most prevalent in Clark County?
Definitely loan modifications. We’re also hearing about charity scams, people pretending to solicit for charity and depending on what kind of information you give them besides the donation, you could be out more money down the road. There are more check scams, people saying they’re stuck overseas and need you to wire money.
What effect does the economy have on fraud?
I think people are more desperate and they are willing to fall for the too-good-to-be-true scenarios, especially when it comes to saving their homes. People want to believe that their homes can be saved, or that this work-at-home job is going to pay them that extra money. They’re in desperate straits; they need to believe it.
What besides the Web site — fightfraud.nv.gov — is the task force doing to help consumers?
We’re doing more face-to-face outreach. We go to libraries and speak. We go to senior centers and speak. We participate in foreclosure seminars. We’re trying to cover as many bases as possible. Our online calendar lets people know where we’re going to be speaking.
Is the task force equipped to take over responsibilities Consumer Affairs used to handle?
It’s doable from an education standpoint. What we can’t do is enforcement. We can’t do investigations. Complaints are still being investigated, just by other agencies. But in some cases the consumer ends up having to perhaps get a private attorney. It’s a significant loss not to have Consumer Affairs.
How can people protect themselves?
Do the research. Check the Better Business Bureau. Research charities online. Don’t succumb to high-pressure tactics. If someone is pressuring you to make a donation or give information right away, don’t fall for it. Give yourself time to think it over, and don’t give out personal information to someone who e-mails or calls.
Has the fraud task force made you more suspicious?
It does make you wary. Scams can look very official, very real. That’s why doing the research is so important.