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Utah AG Partners with DOJ, Sister-States in National Takedown on Tech Support Scams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2019

 

UTAH AG PARTNERS WITH DOJ, SISTER-STATES IN NATIONAL TAKEDOWN ON TECH SUPPORT SCAMS

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced the Utah Attorney General’s Office is partnering with sister-states and the DOJ as part of a nationwide crackdown on fraudsters who try to trick consumers into buying costly tech support and repair services.
 
Utah, in coordination with attorneys general from across the country through the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), has joined the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other regulators to combat tech support scams. As part of this effort, NAAG and the Department of Justice announced a sweep of elder fraud cases and focused particular attention on tech support scams as a major threat to senior citizens. 
 
These scams work in similar ways. Scammers use phone calls and online ads resembling security alerts from major technology companies to trick consumers into contacting the operators of these schemes and providing access to the consumers’ computers. The scammers will claim consumers’ computers are infected with viruses or experiencing other problems. They then try to pressure consumers into buying unnecessary computer repair services, service plans, anti-virus protection or software, and other products and services.
 
“We are sending a clear message to scammers that Utah will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these types of frauds. Locally, we are fortunate to partner with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection on the front line of stopping scammers,” said Attorney General Reyes.

In Utah, the Utah Attorney General’s Office collaborated with partners in the tech world regarding computer fraud schemes targeting consumers in Utah. Tech company representatives informed investigators that fraudulent businesses, claiming to be affiliated with computer support companies, were contacting computer users via pop-ups and malware, informing them that multiple viruses were found on their computer when in fact, their computers were fine. These criminals would then take over the consumers computer and steal personal information, placing viruses and malware on the computers and then charging to fix the problems.
 
During the joint investigation, Attorney General Investigators identified multiple businesses using this fraud scheme. Covert investigative methods were utilized by this team revealing the location of these illegitimate businesses. In some cases, our partners had global resources available to contact and shut down these schemes.
 
Attorneys general through the National Association of Attorneys General, the Department of Justice, and the FTC worked for more than a year on the initiative. In addition to Utah, other state participants included Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington D.C.

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NOTES:

  1. NAAG press release: https://www.naag.org/naag/media/naag-news/state-attorneys-general-join-federal-agencies-in-tech-support-scam-sweep.php
  2. Department of Justice press release: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-coordinates-largest-ever-nationwide-elder-fraud-sweep-0

Utah AG Offers 5 Tips to Protect Yourself from Fraud

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2019

 

DURING NATIONAL AWARENESS WEEK UTAH AG SHARES FIVE TIPS TO FIGHT FRAUD

SALT LAKE CITY – In observance of National Consumer Protection Week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes reminded Utah citizens to defend themselves from fraud by observing the following five tips:

     1. Guard Your Personal Information
Scammers often pretend to be someone reputable such as a business, government entity, or a charity. They may claim they need to verify your personal information, or you owe them money. Whether it’s over the phone, email, social media, or in person, don’t give out your personal information. This includes banking and financial information, your birthdate, and social security number.
     2. Don’t Believe Everything You See
Technology makes it easy for scammers to alter what is displayed on your caller ID, so the information isn’t always correct. If someone contacts you asking for money or your personal information, you can always hang up and call the business or entity back at a number that you can confirm.
     3. Consider Payment Methods
Credit cards are the safest way to pay online because you can dispute the charges and they often have built-in fraud protection. However, not all money transfers have the same protections. Wiring money, for instance, is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. This is also true for gift cards. Most government offices and honest companies won’t ask you to use these payment methods. Should you be asked to provide financial or other sensitive information online, make sure that the address in the URL changes to “https” or “shttp” instead of just “http”.
     4. Do Your Homework
With any online or phone transaction that you conduct, always look up the business or entity online to make sure they are reputable. This goes for anyone asking for money or personal information. You can also check with the Utah Consumer Protection Division and the Utah Better Business Bureau to see if the person/organization is credible.
     5. Be Careful Where You Click
Never click on any links from unsolicited emails or text messages. These links can download malware onto your computer and potentially steal your identity. Even if it looks familiar, it can be fake. The best approach to receiving these emails or text messages is to simply delete them.

“Utah is a very trusting state which is good in many ways unless you trust the wrong person,” said Attorney General Reyes. “President Ronald Reagan often said, “Trust but verify.” One of the most effective ways to immunize yourself from fraud is to verify information before doing business with anyone, even those you know well.”
 
“The bad news is these cases are so prevalent. The good news is we are perhaps more effective today than ever at fighting scams in Utah. The famous fraudster turned federal agent, Frank Abagnale, has said publicly he has never worked with a better team than the Utah AG Office at fighting fraud, cyber-crimes and identify theft.”

How the Utah Attorney General’s Office Combats Fraud

The Utah Attorney General’s Office and partner agencies are committed to combating fraud and protecting citizens’ rights.

In an age where technology is abundant and quickly evolving, scammers and hackers prey upon unsuspecting people – this costs them time, money, and stress. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is devoted to educating people on how they can protect themselves in an effort to prevent anyone from falling victim to fraudulent situations, and to providing resources and time to directly battling the growing threat of fraud.

In 2016, the Utah Attorney General’s Office launched the White Collar Crime Offender Registry (WCCOR), the nation’s first website that provides consumers with a central database of white-collar offenders. It allows investors to look up white-collar offenders and protect themselves from financial fraud. Since its launch, the WCCOR has been accessed in 119 countries and hosts over 200 offenders convicted in Utah. In the current 2019 Utah Legislative Session, the AG’s Office is working with Senator Curt Bramble on SB234 White Collar Crime Registry which enacts penalties for failure to register. 

This last year, the Utah Attorney General’s Office worked alongside the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and 49 other attorneys general to reach a settlement with Wells Fargo after they opened 3.5 million fraudulent bank accounts in consumers’ names without their knowledge or consent. Utah received $10 million in the settlement, which went into the Division of Consumer Protection’s Education Fund.

Attorney General Reyes is fighting big corporate data breaches that can lead to citizen identity theft. He is working with Senator Lyle W. Hillyard and Representative V. Lowry Snow on SB193, which strengthens Utah’s data breach laws. The Utah Attorney General’s Office works closely with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection and other states’ attorneys general to enforce data breach laws and to sanction large corporations that fail to properly secure their customers’ personal information. For example, last year Utah received nearly a million dollars from a settlement with Uber over delayed reporting of a data hack that stole Uber drivers’ license numbers.

Attorney General Reyes announced last year that he joined a bipartisan group of 40 state attorneys general to stop or reduce annoying and harmful robocalls. The coalition is reviewing the technology major telecom companies. The Utah Department of Commerce consistently receives reports from Utah consumers of illegal robocalls. These robocalls often fake caller ID information on phones and pitches student loan debt consolidation, vacation packages, timeshare resales, among other areas. Illegal robocalls and spoofing have cost Americans billions of dollars in fraudulent claims. Attorney General Reyes and the coalition are working to minimize these unwanted robocalls and illegal telemarketing.

The AG’s Office is also home to the Mortgage and Financial Fraud Unit and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit that investigate and prosecute fraud committed within the State of Utah. Both divisions pursue justice on behalf of the state and victims of fraud and vigorously applies resources toward investigation, prosecution, and financial remedies and recovery.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office encourages all Utahns to participate in National Consumer Protection Week by taking advantage of the resources available, reviewing the ways to safeguard information and finances, and teaching the Five Tips to family and friends.

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Alan Dean McKee Sentenced to Up to 15 Years in LDS Church Impersonation Case

SALT LAKE CITY December 9, 2016  – The Utah Attorney General’s Office Mortgage and Financial Fraud Unit announces the sentencing of Alan Dean McKee, 57, of Benjamin, Utah, to 1 to 15 years in the Utah State Prison. McKee had previously entered a guilty plea to two Second Degree Felonies for his role in hatching various fraudulent schemes netting him approximately $1.2 million. McKee’s case was investigated and prosecuted by the Utah Attorney General’s Office Investigations Division in cooperation with the Utah County Attorney’s Office. A companion case against McKee’s alleged co-defendant Gary Anderson is still pending.

“The Utah Attorney General’s Office will continue to fight white collar crime as one of its top priorities,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “As the year comes to a close and we look forward to 2017, I want to commend the investigators, paralegals, attorneys and staff in our office and among our many law enforcement partners who work tirelessly to stop scams and shut down fraudsters.

“From within our office, I would like to highlight, the hard work by Che Arguello, Assistant Attorney General and Division Director of White Collar and Commercial Enforcement, and Brian Williams, Mortgage and Financial Fraud Unit Section Director, and their entire team for their success in building this case, as well as Tyson Downey, Investigator for the Utah Attorney General’s Office. These are very time intensive, difficult cases that require specialized expertise to investigate and prosecute. We are fortunate to have such excellent public servants working for the people of Utah.”

One of the McKee schemes involved telling representatives from Ames Construction that he was facilitating a project involving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, netting McKee over $300,000. McKee also defrauded two other individuals out of almost $900,000 in separate schemes involving the purchase of farm equipment. After charges were initially filed against McKee in February 2016, the Utah Attorney General’s Office discovered McKee was also involved in another fraudulent scheme. McKee had claimed to own a stretch of railroad track in Utah County and then sold the rights to remove the track for $130,000. It was later discovered the track belonged to Union Pacific Railroad, causing them approximately $175,000 in losses.

McKee was sentenced by Judge Vernice Trease of the Utah Third District Court for Salt Lake County. Judge Trease noted the complexity of the crime, the size of the loss, and the number of victims as factors she considered before ordering imprisonment. In addition to the term of incarceration, McKee was ordered to pay full restitution to all victims.

The investigation was assisted by Tyson Downey from the Investigations Division and Richard Hales from the Utah County Attorney’s Office Investigation’s Division.

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Alan Dean McKee Pleads Guilty In Connection With Scam Impersonating LDS Church Officials

SALT LAKE CITY October 18, 2016 – The Utah Attorney General’s Mortgage and Fraud Unit announced today that Alan McKee of Benjamin has pleaded guilty to one count of a Pattern of Unlawful Activity and one count of Theft, all Second Degree Felonies. A separate case against Gary Anderson of Springville is ongoing.

According to charging documents, Anderson and McKee were previously accused of defrauding Ames Construction and two individuals out of approximately $1.2 million between July 2013 and October 2015. McKee is alleged to have sent letters to Ames Construction purporting to come from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“LDS Church”) in connection with the construction of a building site in Elberta, Utah. Anderson is alleged to have assisted by making at least one phone call posing as an LDS Church official to an Ames Construction employee. McKee and Anderson were also alleged to have induced two victims to invest in a scheme to purchase excess farm equipment.

“Stopping white collar crime has always been one of my highest priorities for the Utah Attorney General’s Office,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Our investigators, paralegals, attorneys and staff work tirelessly to stop scams and shut down fraudsters.

“I appreciate the hard work by Che Arguello, Assistant Attorney General and Division Director of White Collar and Commercial Enforcement, and Brian Williams, Mortgage and Financial Fraud Unit Section Director, and their team for their hard work to build this case.”

The investigation was assisted by Tyson Downey from the Investigations Division and Richard Hales from the Utah County Attorney’s Office Investigations Division.

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Attorney General Warns Utahns of Telephone Scam Spoofing Utah State Treasurer’s Office Phone Number

Fraudulent Callers Claim to be IRS Agents Collecting Back Taxes

SALT LAKE CITY October 17, 2016 – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced today that the Office of the Attorney General has received reports of Utahns receiving fraudulent, unsolicited phone calls from aggressive individuals claiming to be IRS officials collecting back taxes. The fraudulent callers are spoofing the Utah Office of the Treasurer’s phone number (801-538-1042) to gain credibility. The Office of Utah State Treasurer does not collect taxes (federal, state or otherwise).

The fraudulent callers demand the victim immediately pay a bogus tax bill via credit card, pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim does not cooperate, they are intimidated with threats of arrest, deportation or other harmful measures.

The IRS website advises if you receive a call and do not suspect you owe federal income tax:  

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you receive a call and know you owe federal income tax or think you may owe federal income tax:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.  
  • Stay alert to scams using the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not only at tax time. For more information visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

Please also feel free to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-244-4636 or at https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/contact-us.

 

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Utah Attorney General's Office

Dwight Shane Baldwin Sentenced to Between Four and 30 Years

SALT LAKE CITY May 27, 2016 –The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) announced today that Dwight Shane Baldwin, more commonly known as Shane Baldwin, was sentenced to between four and 30 years for four counts of Securities Fraud and three counts of Communications Fraud, all 2nd Degree Felonies. Baldwin was prosecuted by the Mortgage and Financial Fraud Unit of the OAG after an investigation by the Utah Division of Securities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement in relation to the sentencing:

“It continues to be important that people verify the legitimacy of any deal or offering before ever trusting anyone, even close friends and family, with money to invest. This case is an excellent example of the damage that can be wrought upon innocent victims when trust is violated. We hope citizens will take great precautions, including checking the White Collar Fraud Offender Registry, when making investments of any sort. I cannot emphasize this enough. Fraud destroys lives. Fraud decimates families and businesses. Utahans must do everything in their power to protect themselves while we continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute fraudsters.

“We appreciate the fine work and cooperation of our partners, the Utah Division of Securities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We also thank the United States Attorney’s Office for inviting us to lead the prosecution of this case.”

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