Identity Theft

Internet Crime and Identity Theft  

In 2011, American’s fell victim to Internet crimes to the tune of $485.3 million dollars . The Penn State University Police Department believes through education, we can reduce the number of members in the Penn State Community who fall victim to this growing trend. Below we offer descriptions on some of the most common forms of scams and fraud as well as prevention tips to ensure your online experience is a positive one. If, however, you do fall victim to an internet crime, we have also included a corrective action checklist to help minimize and begin to repair the damage created.  

Most Common Scams  

FBI-related Scams

Scams in which a criminal poses as the FBI to defraud victims. An example would be an email from the FBI confirming the legitimacy of another scam. 

Identity Theft

Unauthorized use of a victim’s personal identifying information to commit fraud or other crimes. An example of identity theft would be someone obtaining your personal information and opening up a line of credit.  

Advance Fee Fraud

Criminals convince victims to pay a fee to receive something of value, but do not deliver anything of value to the victim. The details vary, but the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money which he cannot access directly. Advance funds that the victim sends are “used to bribe government officials” to obtain the unclaimed fortune. The victim is told they will receive their “bribe money” back along with a part of the fortune. These are most commonly known as Nigerian Scams.  

Non-Auction/Non-Delivery of Merchandise

Purchaser does not receive items purchased. These scams occur when a suspect posts something for sale on, for example, Craigslist or Ebay, that they don’t actually own. The “seller” requests advance payments for various reasons but after the money is send, the “buyer” never receives their purchase.  

Overpayment Fraud 

An incident in which the victim receives an invalid monetary instrument (check, money order) with instructions to deposit it in a bank account and send excess funds or a percentage of the deposited money back to the sender. The victim deposits the check and sends a portion of the money back to the sender. It is only after the money is sent that the victim discovers the deposited check or money order was fraudulent and they are out the money they returned.  


Auction Fraud 

  • Before you bid, contact the seller with any questions you have. Review the seller’s feedback.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.
  • Ensure you understand refund, return and warranty policies.
  • Determine the shipping charges before you buy.
  • Be wary if the seller only accepts wire transfers or cash.
  • Consider insuring your purchase.  

Credit Card Fraud

  • If purchasing merchandise, ensure it is from a reputable source. Do research to ensure legitimacy of the individual or company.
  • Beware of providing credit card information through unsolicited emails.
  • Promptly reconcile credit card statements to avoid unauthorized charges.  

Debt Elimination

  • Know who you are doing business with – do your research. Contact the state Attorney General’s Office or the state corporation commission to see if there are any registered complaints.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.
  • Ensure that you understand all terms and conditions of any agreement.
  • Be wary of businesses that operate from P.O. boxes or mail drops.  

Employment/Business Opportunities

  • Be wary of inflated claims of product effectiveness.
  • Be cautious of exaggerated claims of possible earnings or profits.
  • Beware when money is required up front for instructions or products.
  • Be leery when the job posting claims “no experience necessary”.
  • Do not give your Social Security number when first interacting with your prospective employer.
  • Be wary when replying to unsolicited emails for work-at-home employment.  

Identity Theft

  • Ensure websites are secure before submitting a credit card number.
  • Never throw away credit card or bank statements in usable form.
  • Be aware of missed bills, which could indicate the account has been taken over.
  • Be cautious of scams requiring personal information.
  • Never give a credit card number over the phone unless you make the call.
  • Monitor credit statements monthly for any fraudulent activity. Review a copy of your credit report at least once a year.
  • Report unauthorized transactions to bank or credit card companies as soon as possible.  

Investment Fraud, Ponzi and Pyramid Schemes

  • If the opportunity appears too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Beware of promises to make fast profits.
  • Be wary of investments that offer high returns at little or no risk.
  • Be cautious when you are required to bring in subsequent investors.
  • Do not invest in anything unless you understand the deal.
  • Independently verify the terms of any investment that you intend to make, Beware of references given by the promoter.
  • Do not assume a company is legitimate based on appearance of the website.
  • Be leery when responding to investment offers received through unsolicited email.  


  • Be wary if you do not remember entering a lottery or contest.
  • Be cautious if you receive a telephone call stating you are the winner of a lottery.
  • Beware of lotteries that charge a fee before delivering your prize.
  • Be wary of demands to send additional money to be eligible for future winnings.
  • It is a violation of federal law to play a foreign lottery via mail or phone.  


  • Be suspicious of any unsolicited email requesting personal information.
  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal information. This could be a phishing scam.
  • Always compare the link in the email to the link that you are actually directed to visit.
  • Log on to the entity’s official website, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited email.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine.  


  • Do not open spam. Delete it.
  • Never respond to spam because this will confirm to the sender that it is a valid email address.
  • Have a primary and secondary email address – one for people you know and one for all other purposes.
  • Avoid giving out your email address unless you know how it will be used.
  • Never purchase anything advertised through unsolicited email.  


  • Be cautious if you are asked to ship packages to an “overseas home office.”
  • Be leery if the individual states that his country will not allow direct business shipments from the United States.
  • Be wary if the ship-to address is yours but the name on the package is not.
  • Do not accept packages you did not order.
  • If you receive packages you did not order, either refuse delivery or contact the company that sent the package. Prevention tips obtained from  

Corrective Action Checklist  

  1. Contact the fraud department of any one of the three credit reporting bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report. To place a fraud alert on your credit report call any one of the following, they are required by law to inform the other two).

    P.O. Box 740241
    Atlanta, GA 30347

    P.O. Box 2002
    Allen, TX 75013

    Trans Union
    P.O. Box 2000
    Chester, PA 19022

    For a free copy of your credit report:
    Annual Credit Report Request Service (a service of the three credit reporting agencies)
    P.O. Box 105283
    Atlanta, GA 30348-5283
  2. Report the incident to your local police department or the police in the community where the fraud took place.
    Penn State University Police Department
    Eisenhower Parking Deck
    University Park, PA 16802
    Emergency number: 814-863-1111
    Non-emergency number: 814-865-1864
    Fax number: 814-865-0466

    Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation
    Phone number: 717-783-5524
    Fax number: 717-705-2306
  3. Contact the relevant account providers or agency.
  4. File a complaint with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

    Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection
    Strawberry Square
    14th Floor
    Harrisburg, PA 17102
    Phone number: 1-800-441-2555

    Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Clearing House
    600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20580
    1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)
    TTY: 1-8660-653-4261

    Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) - A Partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center
  5. Continue to monitor your financial account statements promptly and carefully.
  6. Create a Contact Log to keep track of the date, time, business, phone number and extension, contact person and their title and the resolution or comments provided.

To Report a Lost or Stolen Driver’s License

PA Department of Transportation
Bureau of Driver Licensing
P.O. Box 68272
Harrisburg, PA
In-State Phone number: 1-800-932-4600
Out of State Phone number: 1-717-412-5300
Hearing impaired (within state): 1-800-228-0676 (TDD)
Hearing impaired (out of state): 1-717-412-5380 (TDD)

Application for Replacement of Non-Commercial License (Form DL-80)

To Report Mail Fraud or Stolen or Tampered with Mail or False Change of Address

U.S. Postal Inspection Service
Criminal Investigations Service Center
Attn: Mail Fraud/Mail Tampering/Stolen Mail/False Change of Address
222 S. Riverside Plaza
Suite 1250
Chicago, IL 60606-6100

To Report a Lost or Stolen Social Security Number or Card

Social Security Administration
1-800-325-0778 (TTY)
Local SSA Office:
901 University Drive,
State College, PA 16801

Application for Replacement Card

To Report a Lost or Stolen Credit Card or Dispute Charges

Visa Customer Service

MasterCard Customer Service
1-800-MCAssist (1-800-622-7747)

American Express Identity Theft Assistance


To Report Fraud on Your Cellular Phone 

Verizon Wireless Customer Service
Dial *611 from your cell phone or 1-800-922-0204
1-877-899-8891 (TTY)

Dial *2 TALK from your Spring PCS Phone Or 1-888-211-4727

Dial *611 from your cell phone or 1-888-333-6651
1-866-241-6567 (TTY)

Dial 611 free of charge or call 1-800-937-8997 from any phone
1-877-296-1018 (TTY)