The reality is scammers know to target the vulnerable.
And the other reality is crime is on the rise, and enforcement is hindered by diminished resources.
In response to concerns voiced by local Latino leaders in roundtable discussions, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, on Thursday hosted a workshop on avoiding fraud and scams in collaboration with El Concilio in downtown Stockton.
"We just wanted to make sure people have the most information," McNerney said.
Thursday's workshop had presentations on mortgage fraud and low-income housing, Social Security Administration benefits, fraud prosecution and immigration scams.
The event was geared toward providing education and networking to the public and community leaders who can disseminate the information.
"There is so much information that's out there," said Angel Jimenez of El Concilio. "The general population doesn't necessarily know where to start."
Suzanne Schultz, family crimes coordinator at the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office, said it's important for people to take prevention seriously, because resources to prosecute offenders have been reduced.
"We've got to do whatever we can to harden ourselves as targets," she said. "I'm going to be honest with you, we are filing less cases."
Scammers are asking people over the phone to wire money in exchange for some benefit or winning a prize or even to get a loved one out of jail.
Don't fall for it.
"Do what you can to keep yourself safe," Schultz said.
And do report when you are a victim, she said. The District Attorney's Office also has a victim's program to help with compensation, counseling, referrals, restraining orders and other assistance.
Jose Nuno, of the low-income housing developer Visionary Home Builders, relayed details about the organization's free loan modification program, foreclosure mitigation assistance and home ownership counseling.
Unscrupulous brokers are still targeting homeowners under foreclosure, he said.
"They look for hope," Nuno said. And they use the hope people feel and make unrealistic promises to make money from them.
A common identity theft issue is the fraudulent use of Social Security numbers.
Isabelle Gallardo, a claims representative from the Social Security Administration, advised that people should look at their annual Social Security statement online.
A statement lists an individual's lifetime earnings and estimated paid Social Security and Medicare taxes.
If a person notices income they didn't earn, that might be a sign that someone else is working under the same Social Security number.
Gallardo also provided a snapshot of the benefits available to retirees, including needs-based disability benefits and supplemental entitlement funds that are based on employment earnings.
Another concern in the Latino community is people falling prey to immigration scams.
Some businesses charge to help people fill out forms that are available free on a website, or they make unsubstantiated immigration guarantees.
"Don't be a victim of fraud," said Michael Biggs, field office director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Fraud is rampant in every community."
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