- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and post office representatives and others are warning about fraud and financial scams that can be heartbreaking for victims.

Bruning’s announcement Monday coincided with the start of National Consumer Protection Week.

“No one is immune to consumer-based crime,” said Bruning, who noted his office received more than 450 phishing scams last year.

Data breaches are also a problem, such as the one that hit Target last year, Bruning said. Other common scams include foreign lotteries or fraudulent sweepstakes that may involve sending money to pay a fee or taxes before collecting the winnings.

“Don’t pay to play,” Lincoln Postmaster Kerry Kowalski said at Monday’s news conference.

To keep parents, grandparents or others safe, Kowalski said to look at their mail and call logs and check to see if there are some recurring charges or if checks are being written for cash.

Victims of these scams tend to be older, very trusting individuals, he said.

“People want to believe that they’re a winner,” Kowalski said.

Last week, U.S. Postal Inspector Tom Harding’s office recovered several thousand dollars for a victim in a small Nebraska community who believed she’d won the Jamaican lottery. She had to pay $3,000 upfront to seek the money, but the mailing was intercepted.

Young people are more susceptible to bogus employment opportunities online or someone using their social security number to establish credit, officials said.

“Identity thieves can rob you of your money, your good name and your piece of mind,” Bruning said.

To minimize online access to accounts, Bruning recommended changing passwords every other month, not using the same passwords for online activity and never using a public network to access financial transactions.

Better Business Bureau President Jim Hegarty suggested monitoring bank statements and credit card statements on a daily basis.

Prevention is key because once identity theft occurs, the challenge to unwind that is incredible, he said.

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