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ESL Federal Credit Union warns community about increase in fraudulent activity

By Press Release

Press Release:

We would like to raise awareness in the community about a recent increase in fraudulent phishing schemes designed to exploit members’ personal and financial information. 

As part of the most recent scheme, customers receive a text message asking them to provide personal information through a link, or receive a phone call from someone claiming they are from their bank or credit union asking to confirm their identity by providing personal details.

It’s important that customers refrain from providing information to these individuals. ESL will never ask you to:

  • Click links in text messages to verify information
  • Provide banking login credentials (i.e. User name and password)
  • Share Apple, Samsung, or Google ID information
  • Provide any two-factor authentication codes or confirm login codes that have been sent to your phone or email

Ensuring the safety of customer information is of the utmost priority. If you have any questions about a call, text, or piece of mail you received, please call us at 585.336.1000.

GC Office for the Aging warns of elder financial fraud

By Press Release

Press Release:

In an effort to protect our community's vulnerable citizens from financial scams, the Genesee County Office for the Aging is proud to announce a collaborative event that equips residents with the knowledge and tools to guard against elder financial fraud. 

Event Details: 

  • Date: Oct. 23
  • Time: 2 p.m.
  • Location: Genesee County Office for the Aging, 2 Bank St, Batavia

Join us for this crucial presentation, supported by law enforcement agencies, M&T Bank Financial Crimes Unit, and AARP, where you will gain insights into the latest scams employed by criminal organizations to target elderly individuals. This event will educate you about the evolving tactics of scammers and provide essential guidance on how to protect yourself and, if necessary, what steps to take if you have fallen victim to a scam.

We urge all interested participants to pre-register by calling 585-343-1611 to ensure your spot at this informative event. The presentation will be conducted by professionals from Homeland Security Investigations, the US Secret Service, M&T Bank, and AARP. 

In a world where financial scams are rising, knowledge is your best defense. We encourage all Genesee County residents, especially seniors, to attend this event and arm themselves with valuable information that can help protect their financial well-being. 

For more information, please contact: Jill Yasses at 585-344-2550 ext. 5931

Batavia PD also investigating bail scam cases in the city

By Press Release

Press release:

The Batavia Police Department is investigating a similar bail scam as referenced by the Sheriff's Office in their press release issued earlier today. The scam involves at least four people and is initiated with a phone call to the victim from a private number.

When the victim answers the phone, a distraught female begins the conversation by yelling “Grandma” or “Grandpa” and begins talking about how she was in a car accident, arrested, and needs bail. The female says that her phone broke during the accident and that’s why she’s calling on a private number. 

The female tells the victim she’s going to have her attorney call to arrange bail. A short time later a male scammer calls the victim saying he is the attorney and provides details about the case. The male says that he needs $10,000+ to get the granddaughter out of jail and that it must be cash only. The scammer instructs the victim to leave the cash on the porch for a courier to pick up. 

The courier arrives and takes the money from the porch. Once the scammers receive the money, they continue calling the victim attempting to get more money for various legal reasons.

The team of scammers is known to operate a white sedan, possibly a Kia, and a black sedan or SUV. The involved scammers in the Batavia incident include a female, a smaller build young-looking black male, a heavy-set white male, and a younger average-sized white male with dark hair.

The Batavia Police Department is seeking any leads which can be provided by the public. 

Anyone that was in the area of Ellicott Street and Williams Street on April 20 at approximately 12 p.m., and April 21 at approximately 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and observed the above individuals or their vehicles are asked to contact Detective Jason Ivison at (585) 345-6312 or the Batavia Police Department at (585) 345-6350, the confidential tip line at (585) 345-6370.

Previously: Sheriff's Office warns of local bail scam targeting older residents

The latest scam: using City of Batavia's name to try and get people's banking information

By Press Release

From the City of Batavia Police Department:

The City of Batavia has become aware of a scam in which the scammers are using the phone number and name of the City in an attempt to get victims to provide personal banking information. The caller ID comes across as “City of Batavia” with the phone number (585) 343-8182. The scammer is telling victims they have overcharged on a utility bill and want information to reimburse the money.

The City of Batavia will not request personal banking information over the phone. The City only provides refunds or payments to citizens and vendors in the form of a check.

Follows these tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help avoid fraud:

1.    Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government officiala family membera charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.  

2.    Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.

3.    Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

4.    Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.

Hawley calls for vigilance as bogus letters about NYSDOL benefits hit mailboxes

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley is aware of the recent string of fraud cases that have developed in the wake of an overwhelmed New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) doing what it can to assist as many people as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a significant number of people to lose their jobs.

The scam stems from evidence that individuals throughout Western New York have received letters concerning unemployment benefits from the NYSDOL, despite never having sought unemployment claims at all. Hawley is urging everyone to remain vigilant and responsible during this time.

“I have my reservations when it comes to government agencies operating efficiently,” Hawley said. “I am coordinating with the NYSDOL to ensure those who need legitimate support receive it, and those who are falling victim to these identity thieves know what steps to take to set things right.”

NYSDOL is still developing a comprehensive set of instructions that it will make public for those wondering what steps to take should they receive such a letter. Until that time, Hawley is encouraging all citizens to stay vigilant, monitor their mail, and should they notice anything suspicious coming from the NYSDOL in the mail (particularly when they have not claimed unemployment), they should report it to the Fraud Department by calling toll-free at (888) 598-2077, or visiting this website.

Citizens are also encouraged to email the FBI branch in Buffalo if they have received a letter or related debit card contact at: or call the number of the New York State Police Troop A Headquarters at (585) 344-6200.

National Grid warns of phone scam of imposters demanding bill payment, threatening disconnection

By Billie Owens

Press release:

National Grid is warning Western New York customers to beware of a new phone scam where imposters are demanding immediate bill payment and threatening service disconnection.

This latest scam, which is targeting customers already facing hardships due to COVID-19, involves callers who pretend to be National Grid representatives.

They tell customers that unless payment is made within 30 minutes, their power will be shut off. The customer is then directed to call “the direct billing department to make a payment and avoid power disconnection.”

The scammers use sophisticated phone systems that display National Grid on the customer’s caller ID.

Additionally, the phone number customers are instructed to call closely resembles the company’s recorded messaging and phone prompt directions. These elements make it difficult to differentiate an actual National Grid call from an imposter’s call.

When in doubt, customers should hang up and call the National Grid customer service number on their bill.

National Grid reminds customers that on March 13, the company temporarily suspended collections-related activities, including service disconnections, to lessen any financial hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company continues to encourage customers struggling to pay their bills to take advantage of bill payment options or to call to speak with one of our Consumer Advocates.

Additional Tips to Protect Against Scams

National Grid urges customers to be cautious of scammers and offers the following tips:

  • National Grid representatives will know your account number; never offer that information to a caller.

  • Ask the caller to provide the last five digits of your National Grid account number. If thecaller doesn’t know your account number, asks questions about your account balance and associated details, or if you have any doubt the caller is a National Grid representative, please take charge and immediately hang up. Call National Grid or local law enforcement officials to report the incident.

  • National Grid will not contact customers demanding immediate payment by wire transfer, Green Dot Money-Pak or any other prepaid card service.

  • Never -- under any circumstances -- offer personal or financial information to someone who you cannot identify.

  • For more information on scams, click here.

Senior alert scam reported in Genesee County

By Howard B. Owens

Two people in Le Roy have complained to police, according to Chief Chris Hayward, of getting phone calls that sound suspiciously like a scam.

Hayward is asking local media to alert seniors to the potential scam, which Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a statement about a few days ago.

The purported scam begins with a robo call that tells seniors they've been approved for an emergency alert device that they can receive for free. Scare tactics are used to encourage seniors to continue with the call, telling them that seniors have died when emergency responders were not notified quickly enough.

The company allegedly running the scam may be based in the Utica area and employs a 315 area code.

For a $35 monthly fee, the company says it will monitor this free equipment.

Potential victims are asked to give personal billing information over the phone.

Schneiderman issued the following tips on avoiding fraud:

  • Never give out billing or other personal information over the phone, especially if you receive an unsolicited telephone call from a stranger;
  • Never cash a check from an unknown source, especially if you are being asked to wire a portion of the proceeds to a stranger;
  • Never wire money to someone you don't know who contacts you; it's the same as handing over cash.

Local victim thinks area residents should be more aware of debit card fraud schemes

By Howard B. Owens

A Genesee County resident was shocked earlier this month to find that two of her debit cards had been used to make unauthorized purchases at locations as far away as France and Texas.

Apparently the thieves obtained her cards with a bit of technology, though which technology was used in this case is unclear.

Criminals can use several methods to obtain ATM card numbers. The most common is known as skimming, which involves hooking a dummy reader up to an ATM machine.

Less common is using a device that reads RFID signals (radio frequency) that some cards emit (RFID signals are much more common on credit cards and hardly used by banks on ATM cards, according to a security expert).

The local woman first thought somebody scanned her purse, but at the request of The Batavian, contacted her banks and found her debit cards do not have RFID chips.

The woman carries two debit cards, one from TD Bank of the North and one from First Niagara. She said she rarely uses the First Niagara card and hadn't used it for several weeks prior to it being compromised.

That's why the woman doesn't think her cards were skimmed at an ATM machine.

A TD bank customer service agent told her that some stores keep ATM card numbers in their system for up to six months, which could be the source of a security breach (hackers could gain access to the system, or an unscrupulous store employee to look up the numbers).

The woman contacted The Batavian after filing a complaint with the Sheriff's Office because of a local news report about skimming at two M&T Bank branches, one in Corfu and another in Oakfield.

Undersheriff William Sheron said local law enforcement has received no confirmation of any skimming victims in Genesee County, except for the possible case of the woman who filed the complaint Monday.

Regardless of the amount of skimming taking place locally, it is a fraud consumers should be concerned about, security experts warn.

In January, Bank Info Security predicted 2012 would be the year of skimming.

In order to skim card numbers from unsuspecting bank customers, a criminal places a disguised card reader on an ATM machine. The devices are often manufactured by criminals to seamlessly integrate into the bank's ATM machine, making them very hard for an unsuspecting ATM customer to detect.

The criminal must also place a hidden camera in an appropriate location in order to capture users inputting PIN numbers.

Robert Siciliano, a McAfee identity theft expert, said most criminals who set up skimming devices know how to avoid being detected by ATM security cameras when placing and removing a device on an ATM machine, and the devices are left on machines for no more than a couple of hours.

Siciliano said if a consumer suspects a device has been connected to a machine, they can usually jiggle it loose.

There are several ways consumers can protect themselves from debit card fraud.

First, Siciliano said, don't use a debit card. Siciliano said he only carries credit cards, uses those for all of his electronic purchases and then pays off the cards each month.

Credit card agreements, by law, have better consumer protection rules, he said. For example, consumers have up to 60 days to detect and report an unauthorized transaction, whereas most bank agreements on debit cards give consumers only a matter of days to report fraudulent use of their cards.

If you do use a debit card, you should be checking your bank statements online frequently to more quickly detect unauthorized transactions, Siciliano said, certainly at least every two weeks.

It's best never to swipe your debit card for purchases, Siciliano said. Don't use them in place of a check. Not only might there be a skimming device attached -- such as at a gas station -- to the purchase point machine, the numbers are stored in computer systems that can be compromised.

If you use your card at a bank ATM machine, always use your free hand to cover the entry of your PIN number. While some skimming devices include overlays for keypads, they are rare, Siciliano said. The most common way to capture a PIN number is with a hidden camera.

For the local woman who had her identity stolen, it's been a major frustration, she said.

Because she feared all of the debit and credit cards in her purse were compromised -- including a card under her dad's name with a large line of credit she uses for any emergency care for her father -- she cancelled all of her cards.

The thieves placed a nearly $2,000 charge in France on her primary debit card and tried to make another $1,000 charge at another location (by then both her available funds and overdraft protection were used up).

Fortunately, she said, she had made her $500 house payment just a day or two before the unauthorized charges were made or she would really be in a serious financial bind, she said.

On her First Niagara card, fraudsters tried placing charges in Texas and Wisconsin, but First Niagara rejected the charges. Still, she has to wait up to 10 days for a new card in that account.

She also had to cancel her direct deposit for her paychecks on her primary bank account and request paper checks from her employer until her bank accounts are re-secured.

The main reason she contacted The Batavian, she said, is she thought people should be warned these kinds of scams can take place locally.

"I had heard about this on the news last year, but you never think it would happen to you in a small town like Batavia," she said.

Sheriff's Office warns about 'HSBC phone scam' hitting Genesee County

By Howard B. Owens

The Sheriff's Office is warning area residents of a phone scam that has been hitting Genesee County and other parts of Western New York.

In this particular scam, a person receives a call on his or her mobile phone with a recorded message indicating that the person's HSBC account has been frozen. The message prompts the person to press a number to unlock the account.

"Residents are warned that is is a scam and they should hang up immediately and not respond to the recorded message," the Sheriff's Office release states.

The Sheriff's Office advises any HSBC customer concerned about their account to contact HSBC.

In general, readers should be wary of any unsolicited call prompting disclosure of personal or identifying information.

The FTC has a page on various types of phone fraud scams and how to guard against them.

Secret Service offers fraud protection session in Batavia

By Daniel Crofts

U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Greg Gramiccioni and Letizia Tagliafierro of the New York State Attorney General's Office will be giving a presentation on fraud at the Office for the Aging, at 2 Bank St., in Batavia.

Free and open to the public, this presentation will be from 1 until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4. It will include information on the different types of fraud currently being practiced, as well as how consumers can protect themselves. Topics include:

Event Date and Time

FRAUD ALERT!!! WC Budget Savers

P is for Perception: Don’t be these Guys, WC Budget Savers

One of the down sides to business, especially online and TV sales business, is that for every ten honest small companies, there is one that practices with shady ethics; WC Budget Savers is a prime example. Look I am not one to ridicule, but the laundry list of offenses by this company is so long that it would take putting Neo back into the Matrix to stop the scamming and fraudulent activity and figure out what it is this company actually does.

Here’s what happens. You either go online or call some phone number from an infomercial to receive a product that you are intrigued by and purchase. During that conversation you unknowingly consent to a “Free Trial” for another service. Sometimes you will receive a call from these people offering you a free gift, but sometimes you don’t even get that! The reason why I say not at all, is because in some cases they do not even list what other companies they are affiliated with, but do tell you that they can sell or “share” your information. Here is an example of that from Flirty Girl. This happened to a client of mine who purchased their fitness DVDs from their TV commercial. Here is what their site says:

Other Disclosures. We may share your personal information with carefully selected vendors, business partners and other organizations that are not a part of the Savvier Family. These companies may use the information we share to provide special opportunities and offers to you. If you do not want us to share information you provide to us with vendors, business partners and other organizations that are not part of the Savvier Family, please click here.

You have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the front page to get to the privacy link, which by the way is very small. Then after you get there you still have to read about 65% of their terms before you find this “other” portion. They do offer an “Opt Out” option, but it is set up in a way that you have to look for it. So if you have no idea where or what it is, POOF! You’re open to their offers!

Companies like WC Budget Savers pay for this information and then do whatever it is they do with it. In most cases consumers are being charged an array of different amounts from as little as $1.00 in the beginning to as much as $29.99 per month without even authorizing the charges. After the consumer discovers these charges, they begin a merry-go-round of phone calls to the different numbers that they have been provided. In some cases, the numbers listed are not even to the company but to personal cell phones of people who are not even involved. When the consumer finally gets through, they are promised a full refund. In some cases this has come to pass, in other cases not at all. Not only have these customers had to fight these charges, but some cases they were forced to close their bank accounts to ensure even further charges!

I can’t stress enough the needs for ethics in business, but if you are doing something like this, it probably won’t matter to you. The sad thing is it appears that WC Budget Savers might actually have a real service to offer, but at this point who cares? Why would anyone want to do business with a company that conducts themselves in this manner.

If you know of a fraudulent service or a company that is conducting themselves in a less than ethical way, please submit it to me at I will investigate it and tell everyone!

Until Next Time….

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