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home : community : community Friday, May 24, 2019

8/22/2017 3:33:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Are There Personal Consequences When Reporting Scams And Frauds?

By Macy Yang

We've heard so much about fraud in the news since the information age that sometimes it's hard to decipher fact from fiction. There are many misconceptions about reporting fraud such as small frauds are not worth reporting, there is nothing that can be done about it, there are additional consequences after reporting a fraud, or the information is shared with immigration enforcement agencies. The impact of a fraud experience reaches far and wide into our daily lives. After a victim suffers the loss, he must decide whether to report it, to which agency, and what the consequences might be, if any, when disclosing personal information about himself and the facts surrounding the incident.

According to Dan Hendrickson, Communications Coordinator, at the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB), consumers who report or provide general information on a scam or fraud to BBB's online Scam Tracker do so without having to reveal their personal information. Their complaint, Hendrickson says, is published on BBB's Scam Tracker, but not their personal information. According to our last report, most agencies share raw information on fraud like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) who uses data to compile their annual report that is then shared with local and federal agencies that track fraud, says Hendrickson. Most often the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota shares their information with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Attorney General's Office. These are trusted agencies and personal information is protected and kept secured, adds Hendrickson.

Nonetheless, formal complaints are handled differently and personal information is a necessary part of the complaint. Formal complaints, according to Hendrickson, are those that a consumer files against a business alleging fraud. It is the policy of the BBB not to handle an anonymous complaint against a business. "We don't feel that's fair to businesses, as they should have all the information necessary to provide responses to the complaint they receive," adds Hendrickson. In fraud cases, agencies like the BBB, FTC or other agencies that take fraud complaints, there's no way to protect the victim's safety from backlash or other consequences. In cases where personal safety is at issue, the victim may also want to file a police report with their local law enforcement agency.

Individuals can also report cases of fraud online at www.ic3.gov. Though personal information is requested and collected their anonymity will be protected. This is a coalition of federal agencies, including the FBI and the Secret Service that tracks crime committed through the internet and attempts to shut down the fraudulent operators or operations where they can, says Hendrickson.

A misconception that fraud data collection agencies will turn over personal information to immigration is unfounded. Most agencies like the BBB and FTC's main goals are to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive practices and lends no hand to indicate that immigration or individual residency status would be a goal of these agencies as it relates to civil fraud matters. Unlike, criminal fraud matters there are cases in which the suspect or perpetrator's immigration status becomes an issue, but not the victim.

A victim's willingness to tell their story and provide personal information only helps agencies identify victims when they are building a case against the scammer and for potential compensation, should there be any. Even small scams should be reported so agencies can identify trends, according to the FTC.

"We feel," Hendrickson says, "it's very important to report instances of fraud or situations where a scam has occurred so that the BBB can track various type of schemes and work to educate consumers on how they can avoid becoming a victim. We've talked to many consumers and they report feeling empowered when they take steps - such as reporting their experience - so that others might avoid the same scheme." Preventing fraud comes back to active prevention and consumer education.

This is a continuing series on consumer scams and fraud schemes.

St. Paul, MN



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