CHARLESTON – State Treasurer John Perdue is warning Mountain State residents not to be duped by what appears to be an unclaimed property/identity theft scam.
Someone faxed a recent letter to a Charleston businessman, who forwarded it to the Treasurer’s Office. It bore the letterhead of Federal Reserve Bank on 33 Liberty Street, New York. It also bore the typed signature of Federal Reserve Bank Chairwoman Janet Yellen. Both the address and name are accurate.
The letter contains a few tipoff references, however, before asking for the telltale personal information. The opening paragraph reads in part:
“As new Chairperson U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, I have made it my first point of priority under the instruction of President barack (sic) Obama administration via United States Department of Treasury to commence immediate unclaimed fund payments accrued to individuals (sic) inheritance fund with respect to local and overseas payment before the end of 2015 fiscal year.”
In murky language often consistent with overseas scams, the letter eventually asks for the following: full name, residential address, valid cell phone number; and country/state of residence.
It also requests bank details as follows: name of bank, address of bank, account number, routing number (misspelled); and account beneficiary name.
“I know people have been told before but a person should never, ever give up his or her personal information, including bank numbers, upon any mail or e-mail solicitation,” Treasurer Perdue said. “I can’t stress this enough. Your bank account will be ruined and your life turned upside down. And, unclaimed property – an area this office assists residents with for free – is often also used as the agent for a scam.”
While a request may sound official, the Treasurer says, one should always verify with another source before giving out personal information. As an example, one may receive a letter, phone call or e-mail that your credit card or bank account has been accessed by someone else.
The person may also be asked to verify a phone number. Before giving out any personal information, contact your credit card company or bank separately to see if someone indeed has access to your account. Do not allow the person requesting the information to contact the credit card company or bank for you.
As for unclaimed property, the only relevant fact to know is that searches are free at the Treasurer’s office website, www.wvtreasury.com. Staff can be reached there at 1-800-642-8687.
“One should never pay for an unclaimed property search,” the Treasurer said. “That’s partly the reason my office is here.”