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home : community : community Friday, May 24, 2019

7/7/2017 3:12:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Scams And Fraud Schemes Know No Boundaries

By Macy Yang

Mayli, a real person whose name has been changed to protect her identity, received a phone call from a number she doesn't recognize. She decided not to answer the call, but then retrieves her voicemail after receiving a voicemail signal from her phone. The automated recording is not addressed to anyone, but tells the listener "you need to return the phone call" to a certain number "otherwise a warrant will be issued and federal criminal prosecution will proceed against you." Mayli suspects a scam because she knows well that no governmental agency will call any individual warning them that a warrant is about to be issued.

Mayli quickly does a phone ownership lookup on the internet and discovers consumer postings and comments about the same phone number that called her. Unsurprised at the result, it was a phone scam. Mayli decides to block the number on her phone. One week later, Mayli receives a call from a different phone number in another state leaving the same message. She again blocks that number on her phone. Mayli believes the scammer got her number from an online registration she did. The company that she registered with likely sold her information to the scamming company.

Does this story sound familiar? This is a true event and it happens over and over, the only thing different is the victim and the scenario - that is, it might be an old debt you haven't paid, it's the IRS calling for unpaid taxes, or it's a top paying work-at-home job, or another similar scheme. The catch is to get you to talk to them and send money, usually by credit card or money wire.

With modern day technology at our fingertips, internet scams and fraud schemes are at the top of the list of reported consumer fraud, according to the National Consumer League's Fraud.org site. Internet fraud, according to Fraud.org, is at the top of the list now for four years in a row.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that 1.3 million consumer complaints were filed with the agency in 2016 totaling an estimated loss of $744 million. In the Twin Cities, there were 15,000 fraud complaints filed. According to the FTC, the national fraud trend from 2011 shows that 10.8% of the population experience fraud, that's an estimated 25.6 million people; of that number, 3% are African American, 9% are White, 13.4% are Hispanic and a smaller percentage for Asians.

Recently, Hmong elders were victimized by Seng Xiong in an affinity fraud scheme, the biggest fraud to hit the Hmong community, that resulted in a loss of $1.3 million. Xiong promised elders a Hmong country or homeland. In exchange for an investment between $3,000 to $5,000, Hmong elders would get free housing, education, and health care among other things in a country for the Hmong people. Xiong was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport while enroute to Thailand, and was found guilty in April.

Zeek Rewards, a scam that was popular in the Hmong community several years ago, was a business opportunity that combined penny stock trading with a profit sharing opportunity. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has since shut down the company. Zeek Rewards founder, Paul Burks, was sentenced in February to 15 years for his role in the $850 million scam.

A deal or promise that is overexaggerated or promises a quick return on your investment, should remind you of the cliché 'if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true.' Scammers and fraudsters have no boundaries, they come after everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, education level, or status.

This article is the first in a series of Hmong Times report on consumer scams and fraud schemes.

St. Paul, MN



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