It’s a question I hear a lot: Why take the time to report a scam, when the bad guys are rarely caught?
But there are lots of good reasons for doing so.
For one, a report “serves as formal documentation that the crime occurred … (and) provides the opportunity for law enforcement agencies to investigate, if enough evidence exists,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Keeping a copy of the report will come in handy when you contact the bank, credit card company, credit bureau, business or government agency from which you are seeking help.
Also, notifying the authorities about what happened allows them “to identify patterns and connect cases to one another,” Velasquez says. “It also helps to accurately measure the incident rate of these crime types.”
In New Mexico, a police report is required for a victim to be listed on the Identity Theft Passport database, which is accessible to all law enforcement. This helps prevent confusion if a crime is committed in the victim’s name.
In addition, the Albuquerque Police Department is able to use victim reports to spot trends and issue timely warnings to the public, spokeswoman Rebecca Atkins says.
“Unfortunately, it is usually very difficult to track the offender down on these scams, as the scammers use multiple ways to hide their identities and often are out of (the) country,” she says. “With that said, reporting these scams is very important.”
When it comes to any kind of cybercrime incident, those should also be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
That’s because the information is distributed to “all interested law enforcement agencies nationwide,” FBI spokesman Frank Fisher says. (Note that this is an option only for victims of online or internet-enabled crimes. Go to IC3.gov and click on “file a complaint” at the top.)
“The more complaints we receive, the more effective we can be in helping law enforcement gain a more accurate picture of the extent and nature of Internet-facilitated crimes – and in raising public awareness of these crimes,” Fisher says.
The state Attorney General’s Office encourages victims to also report incidents to its staff at nmag.gov/contact-us/file-a-complaint/.
The office can provide “immediate valuable resources and coordinate investigations with other law enforcement partners,” spokeswoman Jerri Mares says.
And then there are, of course, the multitude of scams tailored to particular agencies, such as Social Security, the U.S. Postal Service and the IRS, for example. Those must be reported to the targeted agency.
If all this seems confusing, that’s because it can be.
But if it’s not immediately obvious whom you should call, the AG’s website offers a handy, and lengthy, list of recommendations on how to report different kinds of fraud. Go to nmag.gov/protect-yourself/scams-and-fraud/ and scroll toward the bottom.
The Identity Theft Resource Center is also a good place to get advice on reporting the crime and coming up with a recovery plan. Through a new partnership, the center’s free live-chat services are available on the AG’s website, at nmag.gov/protect-yourself/identity-theft/. A chat box will pop up at the right-hand bottom of the screen.
Contact Ellen Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or (505) 823-3972 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam.