Financial Crimes Information

Welcome to the Financial Crimes Information webpage. This page will provide you with important information on financial crime protection and prevention methods, and will also assist you with filing a report if you have become a victim. Take a moment to navigate through the sections listed below and file a report when you are ready. 

File a Report with the Online Reporting System

Types of Fraud 

Credit Card Theft & Fraud

What is credit card theft and fraud?

  • Credit Card Theft is the taking or obtaining of credit card(s), or credit card number(s), with the intent to use them fraudulently.
  • Credit Card Fraud occurs when the credit card, or credit card number(s), are used fraudulently without the consent of the cardholder.
    • IMPORTANT NOTE: If one or more of your credit card accounts has fraudulent transactions, and you still have the physical credit card in your possession, than you have likely become the victim of identity theft. 
    • If someone signed a credit card receipt or draft, paper or electronic, this constitutes a separate offense of credit card forgery. Please ensure you keep copies of any records you have showing fraudulent transactions. 
    • Important information to provide the investigator includes the full credit card number, time, date, and location of the fraud. 

Examples of credit card theft and fraud

  • Your wallet is lost or stolen and purchases are made on your credit card without your consent.
  • An unauthorized purchase appears on your credit card statement from an online retailer.

What is NOT credit card theft and fraud?

  • If you give someone your credit card and they charge more than you authorized, this may not be a crime. Many credit card user agreements explain that when you authorize someone to use your card, they become an "authorized user." 
  • An authorized user continues to use their card on an account after a couple has split. If you inadvertently enter into an agreement with a company and they charge your credit card monthly, you have a civil matter with that company. No crime has been committed if you failed to read the small print. 

Who can investigate credit card theft and fraud?

  • Credit Card theft and fraud has several jurisdictional issues that may cause your case to be redirected to another jurisdiction. As a rule of thumb, a report should be filed where your credit cards were lost or stolen, and where they were fraudulently used. This may mean multiple reports are filed with multiple jurisdictions.

If you are an Arlington County resident and your credit cards were used fraudulently, file an online report and we will provide you with more information. Often times, a police report is needed by your financial institution to prove a fraud has occurred.

What should I do if I am a victim of credit card theft and fraud?

  • Cancel your accounts right away. Call your financial institutions and ask to speak with a fraud specialist. Make sure you document the details of your phone call and obtain their contact information. Follow up with them in writing by filing an affidavit of fraud (usually provided by them). 
    • Make sure you send all information in a certified letter to the financial institution. 
    • Make sure to request in your letter that the company notifies you in writing when they have resolved your needs. 
    • File a police report with the correct jurisdiction. 
    • Contact the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies and place a Fraud Alert on your credit report.
    • Once you place a fraud alert, creditors are required to verify the identity of a person claiming to be you, before extending credit to them. 

How can I protect myself from becoming a victim of credit card theft and fraud?

  • Sign your credit card with permanent marker. 
  • Maintain possession of your credit cards at all times. 
  • Check your credit card statements for fraudulent transactions. 
  • Keep credit card numbers and records in a safe place. 
  • When making purchases online, only use trusted, reputable sites. If it sounds "too good to be true" than it probably is. 
  • Do not send photos of credit cards to anyone. 
  • If you lose or misplace your credit card, cancel it immediately. 
  • If you pay with a credit card attempt to keep it in sight if possible. 
  • If using an ATM/debit card. If possible use the credit feature, this can generally be activated by pressing enter on a keypad when it asks for a pin number.  

Identity Theft

What is identity theft?

Identity Theft occurs when someone uses your personal information for financial gain. 

  • Personal information is defined as social security number, date of birth, account numbers, or unique identifiers specific to you. 

Examples of Identity Theft are: 

  • A person uses your social security number for employment purposes. 
  • Someone opens an unauthorized financial account using your name and date of birth. 
  • Someone creates, buys or possesses a fake driver’s license with your name, address and date of birth to use in financial crimes. 

What is NOT identity theft?

Someone using your address or phone number without your permission. 

  • Your personal information as defined above MUST be used for financial gain in order to pursue identity theft charges.

Who can investigate identity theft?

  • Typically, you will need to file reports with multiple law enforcement agencies when you are the victim of identity theft. 
  • If you found charges or accounts that exist in other jurisdictions, you should file a report with them. 
    • If you are an Arlington County resident, you may file a report with our Department even if your personal information was not used in the county. 

What should I do if I am the victim of identity theft?

  • Cancel any compromised accounts right away. Call your financial institutions and ask to speak with a fraud specialist. Make sure you document the details of your phone call and obtain their contact information. Follow up with them in writing by filing an affidavit of fraud (usually provided by them).
  • Make sure you send all information in a certified letter to the financial institution. 
  • Make sure to request the company to notify you in writing when they have resolved your needs. 
  • File a police report with the correct jurisdiction(s). 
  • You can obtain a free credit report from the Federal Trade Commission to find any anomalies or unauthorized accounts using your identity. 
  • Contact the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies and place a Fraud Alert on your credit report. Once you place a fraud alert, creditors are required to verify the identity of a person claiming to be you, before extending credit to them. 
  • Contact the Social Security Administration if your social security number has been compromised. 
  • Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website for Identity Theft. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), section 609(e), spells out rights for victims of identity theft, as well as responsibilities for businesses. 

NOTE: If someone received a traffic summons using your identity, contact the law enforcement agency and/or the officer that issued the summons for assistance. 

How can I prevent myself from becoming a victim of identity theft?

  • Monitor your credit reports. 
  • Avoid phishing emails/text messages (fraudulent emails/texts from a company you may trust who ask you to click on a link for further information).  All of which ask for your password, username, bank account, address, date of birth, social security number, to "confirm" your identity. Familiarize yourself with the ways to recognize and avoid phishing scams.
  •  Shred paperwork with your personal information on it. 
  • Be suspicious of irregular communications from your financial institutions, Internal Revenue Service and utility companies. Legitimate businesses will provide you with a safe method of transferring information and often request it in writing via a letter in the mail. 
  • For additional resources on Identity Theft, consult the Federal Trade Commission website 

Recovering from Identity Theft | Recuperándose del robo de identidad

Check Fraud

What is Check Fraud?

Check Fraud covers three broad categories.

Bad Checks 

  • A bad check is a check that is given for payment for goods, cash, or services and is returned by the bank due to insufficient funds, or because the account was closed
    • Example: A person wrote you a check for $3,500.00 to pay for lawn services and supplies. Your bank returned the check to you saying the party had insufficient funds to cover the check or that the account was closed.

Forged Checks

 A forged check is one that someone has forged the signature of an authorized party, or altered the check. 

  • Example: Someone steals one of your personal checks and utters it for cash by signing your name on the bottom without your permission. 
  • Example: you write a check for $25.00 and it is later cashed as an altered check which reads $2,500.00. 

Counterfeit Checks

  • A counterfeit check is a check that a bank or financial institute has determined is not real. 
    • Example: A person wrote you a check for $3,000.00 to pay for an online purchase of furniture. Your bank later contacts you and relays that the check was fake.

NOTE: For prosecution purposes a counterfeit check is considered a forged check. 

What is NOT Check Fraud?

  • A check in payment of accounts due for a past debt. 
  • A check given in payment for a previously given bad check. 
  • Postdated checks. 
  • A check received through the mail. 
  • A check given in payment for rent. 
  • A check that you "hold" at the request of the maker. 
  • Two party check. (Unless it can be established that the endorser is a party to a scheme to defraud.) 
  • A check that the holder accepts after a disclosure by the maker, at the time of delivery of the check, that there are insufficient funds in the account to cover the check. 
  • Stop payment checks. 
  • Partial payment checks.

What can I do if I have been a victim of a crime involving a check?

If you received a bad check, follow these steps:

  • Send a letter to the check writer informing them of the bad check, and demand payment. This letter must be sent to the address on the check, via certified mail return receipt requested, before charges can be sought for the individual. The Code of Virginia requires the 5 day demand letter to be sent and authorizes charges even if the person refuses to accept the letter. 

Demand Letter Template

  • Make a copy of the demand letter and save your postal receipt. Pictures of the addressed envelope, with the return receipt attached are helpful.
  • The U.S. Postal Service will deliver your return receipt with signature confirmation or return the letter unclaimed. Keep this receipt as it will be needed for prosecution. 
  • File an online police report, and provide pictures/copies of the demand letter and receipt. 

What if someone forged my name or information on a check?

  • Contact your financial institution and let them know you have been the victim of check fraud. 
  • Place a stop payment on any additional checks that may have been compromised or stolen. 
  • Close all accounts that you feel could be compromised. Follow-up every phone call in writing. 
  • Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged. 
  • Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations. 
  • Have your bank notify the check verification service in which they do business. 
  • Contact the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies and place a Fraud Alert on your credit report. Once you place a fraud alert, creditors are required to verify the identity of a person claiming to be you, before extending credit to them. 


What is embezzlement?

  • A person commits embezzlement when they wrongfully take, steal, or use property belonging to another by virtue of one’s office, trust, or employment.
    • Examples: 
      • A corporate admin adds company funds to their own bank account that were supposed to be sent to a not-for-profit organization. 
      • A grocery cashier takes small amounts of money out of his/her cash drawer for personal use. 
      • A supervisor is given a company credit card to purchase supplies for a company event. The supervisor uses the card for personal use instead of its intended purpose. 

Who can investigate embezzlement?

The Arlington County Police Department can investigate crimes that occur within the jurisdiction of Arlington. If the crime occurred outside of Arlington County, you should contact that jurisdiction for prosecution.

What should I do if I believe an embezzlement has occurred?

  • File an online report with the Arlington County Police Department.
  • Save all documentation that leads you to believe a crime has occurred. This could include bank statements, emails, credit card use agreements, contracts, text messages, and/or receipts. 

How can I protect myself and/or my company from being a victim of embezzlement?

  • Accountability and oversight are key to identifying theft. Have checks and balances in place. 
  • Have more than one person who has access to, and reviews financial statements. 
  • More than one person is needed for purchase authorization. 
  • Require receipts with each purchase.
  • Make sure there is a clear understanding of company policy and what is and is not acceptable. 

Construction Fraud

What is construction fraud?

A person has committed the crime of Construction Fraud when they have received an advance (money, merchandise, or other thing of value) to perform construction or improvements on a property and then failed to perform the work. Additionally, that person must have failed to return the advance after given sufficient notice.

  • Sufficient notice is defined in §18.2-200.1 of the Code of Virginia. Contractors must be given the opportunity to return the advance before criminal proceedings can be initiated. A certified “15-day demand letter” must be sent to the contractor with return receipt requested.

Before you can report the crime of construction fraud, you must send the 15-day letter!

An example of the 15-day demand letter.(PDF, 3MB)

  • Often times, issues with your contractor must be worked out in Civil Court, and not in the Criminal Justice System. These cases are complex and often difficult to prosecute. Generally, the following information will have to be proven in this type of case: 
    • Proof that you paid to have the work done (cancelled check, signed credit card receipt or a cash receipt). 
    • Proof that there was an agreed upon start and completion date for your work. 
    • Proof that a written contract exists. 
    • Finally, you must be able to prove that there was fraudulent intent on the part of the contractor. 
  • If you are a subcontractor who was hired to complete a job, and you were not paid, you could be the victim of a crime. The Code of Virginia § 43-13 requires contractors to pay their subcontractors with monies they have received from the property owner. If you believe you are a victim of this crime, file a report
    • If a contractor performed some of the work, but did not complete your job, your complaint may be civil in nature; however, it may also constitute a crime. You need to file a report and allow an investigator to review the details to make this determination.

An example of construction fraud is: 

  • You give a contractor an advance to make roof repairs. He or she does not perform the work and has failed to return the deposit after the 15-day letter. 

What is NOT construction fraud?

If a contractor completes all of the work, but you are unhappy with the result, a crime has not been committed and it will not be investigated. Your complaint is civil in nature. If you have a civil dispute with your contractor, consider taking the following steps. 

How can I protect myself from becoming a victim of construction fraud?

  • Homeowners should be cautious of door to door solicitors offering home improvement services. These situations can be scams! If the deal sounds “too good to be true” then it probably is!
  • Always ask to see their contractor’s license. Do you really want to do business with someone who is not properly licensed or insured? 
  • Always request a contract defining the work you want done, the start and end date of your job, and how much you are willing to pay for it. 
  • A reputable contractor will always provide references and get their own building permits. If your contractor is asking you to “cut corners” than that should tell you something about their business ethic. Use caution! 
  • Avoid using cash as a down payment. Use alternative funds (personal check, cashier’s check, credit card, money order) which aids in documenting the down payment (via a receipt). 

Conduct a license inquiry on a contractor.

Who can investigate construction fraud?

The location of the property where the work is supposed to occur is the jurisdiction where the crime has been committed. Example: If you sign a contract in the City of Alexandria to have work done on a property in Arlington County, the Arlington County Police Department would investigate the allegations of construction fraud. 

Where can I find additional information and resources about construction fraud?

False Pretense

What is false pretense?

  • False pretense is defined as taking or obtaining property, money, or signature of another by the use of tricks, lies, or deception. 
    • Example:You are approached in a parking lot by a person who tells you that they have a winning lottery ticket but can’t cash it. They offer to sell you the ticket, and after the fact you learn the ticket is not real. 

Most scams and cons all involve false pretense.

What is NOT false pretense?

Being overcharged for work is not false pretense.

What is necessary to establish false pretense under Virginia State Code?

  • Under Virginia criminal code §18.2-178, the following elements must be established. 
    • There must be an intent to defraud. 
    • There must be an actual fraud. 
    • Some form of false pretense, false representation, trick, or deception must be used to facilitate the fraud; and,
    • The false pretense, false representation, trick, or deception must be in part the reason that the fraud was successful. 

Who can investigate false pretense?

The Arlington County Police Department can investigate the crime if it occurs within the jurisdictional boundaries of Arlington County. If the crime occurred outside of Arlington County, you should contact that jurisdiction.

What should I do if I am the victim of false pretense?

  • File a police report with the correct jurisdiction. 
  • You can obtain a free credit report from the Federal Trade Commission to find any anomalies or unauthorized accounts using your identity. 
    • Contact the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies and place a Fraud Alert on your credit report. Once you place a fraud alert, creditors are required to verify the identity of a person claiming to be you, before extending credit to them. 
  • Close any accounts that you know have been compromised. 
  • Call your financial institutions and speak with a fraud specialist. Make sure you document the details of your phone call and obtain their contact information. 
  • Follow up with your financial institutions in writing. Make sure you send all correspondence by certified mail.

Common Scams 

Every year, people lose their life savings to scams. There are numerous ways people can "trick" you out of money, both in person and via the internet. Community members are encouraged to review some of the most common scams to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you.

Internet Based Scams

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) was established as a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) to serve as a means to receive Internet related criminal complaints and to further research, develop, and refer the criminal complaints to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement and/or regulatory agencies. 

Door-to-Door Sales

  • Be suspicious of a solicitor who says, “You’ve been selected …” or “I’m taking a survey.”
  • Ask to see the solicitor’s identification and company credentials, including a County Solicitor’s License. The County requires all door-to-door salespersons to be licensed and to show prospective customers a County-issued identification card on request.
  • Buy only if you need the item, not because you may feel sorry for the solicitor.
  • Insist on a written guarantee.
  • Take ample time to consider the purchase. Avoid any high-pressure tactics.
  • Never sign a contract unless you completely understand it and know the total cost.

Note: Virginia state law provides a buyer of most consumer goods and services with three days to cancel a home solicitation sale after a purchase. If a “Buyer’s Right to Cancel” clause is not included in the contract and the company won’t accept a written cancellation, call the Consumer Protection Hotline – Handled by the Office of the Attorney General, VA toll free at 800-552-9963 or at 804-786-2042.


  • To avoid a telemarketing scheme, tell the caller you’re not interested and/or just hang up the phone.
  • Never give a telemarketer your credit card number, bank account number or Social Security Number, or authorize bank drafts.
  • When listening to a sales pitch, remember the federal government’s Telemarketing Sales Rules:
  • You must be told the name of the company, the fact that it’s a sales call and what’s being sold.
  • If there’s a prize offering, you must be told immediately that there’s no purchase necessary to win, and you can’t be asked to pay anything for it. You can’t even be required to pay shipping charges. If it’s a sweepstakes, the caller must tell you how to enter without making a purchase.
  • You can’t be asked to pay in advance for services such as cleansing your credit record, finding you a loan or acquiring a prize you’ve supposedly won. You pay for services only if they’ve been delivered.
  • You shouldn’t be called before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. If you tell telemarketers not to call again, they can’t. If they do, they’ve broken the law.
  • If you’re guaranteed a refund, the caller has to tell you all the limitations.

If you suspect fraud, call the National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060.

Outstanding Warrant & Jury Duty Scams

Periodically, residents have reported receiving unsolicited phone calls claiming they have failed to appear for jury duty and/or have an outstanding warrant for their arrest. The resident is provided with a phone number and instructed to call an individual the scammer claims to be a Lieutenant with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office or other local law enforcement agencies. The scammer then demands immediate payment for an alleged fine. Through threats and intimidation, they attempt to convince residents to purchase prepaid credit cards and provide the identification numbers which allows the scammers to obtain the money from the cards.

If you receive a call of this nature, immediately hang up with the caller and verify the claim by calling the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office at 703.228.4460. Never use a phone number provided to you from the caller to verify their credibility.

As a reminder, the Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office will not call and ask for money over the phone.

Gift Card Scams

Someone might ask you to pay for something by putting money on a gift card, like a Google Play or iTunes card, and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card. If they ask you to do this, they’re trying to scam you. No real business or government agency will ever insist you pay them with a gift card. Anyone who demands to be paid with a gift card is a scammer. 

Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. But they’re popular with scammers because they’re easy for people to find and buy, and they have fewer protections for buyers compared to some other payment options. They’re more like cash: once you use the card, the money on it is gone. Scammers like this.

If someone calls you and demands that you pay them with gift cards, you can bet that a scammer is behind that call. Once they have the gift card number and the PIN, they have your money. Scammers may tell you many stories to get you to pay them with gift cards, but this is what usually happens:

  • The caller says it’s urgent. The scammer says you have to pay right away or something terrible will happen. But you don’t, and it won’t.
  • The caller usually tells you which gift card to buy. They might say to put money on an eBay, Google Play, Target, or iTunes gift card. They might send you to a specific store — often Walmart, Target, CVS, or Walgreens. Sometimes they say to buy cards at several stores, so cashiers won’t get suspicious. And, the caller might stay on the phone with you while you go to the store and load money onto the card. These are all signs of a scam.
  • The caller asks you for the gift card number and PIN. The card number and PIN on the back of the card let the scammer get the money you loaded onto the card. And the scammer gets it right away.

Visit the Federal Trade Commission's Gift Card Scams page to learn more about these scams and what to do if you paid a scammer with gift cards.

Cryptocurrency Scams

Scammers are always finding new ways to steal your money using cryptocurrency. One sure sign of a scam is anyone who says you have to pay by cryptocurrency. In fact, anyone who tells you to pay by wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency is a scammer. Of course, if you pay, there’s almost no way to get that money back. Which is what the scammers are counting on. Here are some cryptocurrency scams to watch out for.

Investment and business opportunity scams 

  • Some companies promise that you can earn lots of money in a short time and achieve financial freedom.
  • Some scammers tell you to pay in cryptocurrency for the right to recruit others into a program. If you do, they say, you’ll get recruitment rewards paid in cryptocurrency. The more cryptocurrency you pay, the more money they promise you’ll make. But these are all fake promises, and false guarantees.
  • Some scammers start with unsolicited offers from supposed “investment managers.” These scammers say they can help you grow your money if you give them the cryptocurrency you’ve bought. But once you log in to the “investment account” they opened, you’ll find that you can’t withdraw your money unless you pay fees.
  • Some scammers send unsolicited job offers to help recruit cryptocurrency investors, sell cryptocurrency, mine cryptocurrency, or help with converting cash to bitcoin. 
  • Some scammers list scam jobs on job websites. They’ll promise you a job (for a fee), but end up taking your money or personal information.

Look for claims like these to help you spot the companies and people to avoid:

  • Scammers guarantee that you’ll make money. If they promise you’ll make a profit, that’s a scam. Even if there’s a celebrity endorsement or testimonials. (Those are easily faked.)
  • Scammers promise big payouts with guaranteed returns. Nobody can guarantee a set return, say, double your money. Much less in a short time.
  • Scammers promise free money. They’ll promise it in cash or cryptocurrency, but free money promises are always fake.
  • Scammers make big claims without details or explanations. Smart business people want to understand how their investment works, and where their money is going. And good investment advisors want to share that information.

Before you invest, do your research online for the name of the company and the cryptocurrency name, plus a word like "review," "scam," or "complaint," and see what others are saying. Learn more about other common investment scams and visit the Federal Trade Commission's website to learn more about Cryptocurrency related scams.  

Fraud Prevention

Credit Bureau Information: 

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241 

 Experian: 1-888-397-3742 
P.O. Box 9532
Allen, Texas 75013

 TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 
P.O. Box 5690
Fullerton, California 92834


What are some ways you can prevent fraud?

  • Shred all of your personal information before throwing it in the trash. 
  • Don’t let mail pile up in your mailbox. Your mail contains a lot of personal information that you don’t want to get in the wrong hands. 
  • Be cautious of unsolicited emails or mailings, they could be fronts for scams.
  • Do not carry your social security card, passport, or birth certificate with you. Keep it secured in a safe or safe deposit box. 
  • Only make online purchases from secure websites and reputable companies. Anyone can create a website and begin offering items for sale for very low prices with the only intent of capturing your credit card number when you place your order. 
  • Get checks sent to your bank and not mailed to your residence. Contact your financial institution for more information.

What are some ways credit bureaus can help prevent fraud?

  • Review your credit reports regularly. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) requires the three major credit bureaus to provide you with one free credit report a year. The three major consumer credit reporting companies created a website to provide consumers with free credit reports from all three companies. 
  • Opt out of pre-approved offers. Contact the credit bureaus and ask to be removed from this list. 
  • Are you in the military? Did you know you can put an alert on your credit reports while you are away? Contact one of the credit bureaus for more information. 


Consumer Education: 

Consumer Affairs

  • Beware of the smooth-talking salesman who comes to your home unannounced. Also, be weary of any phone call requesting a home appointment to give you something or asking you to participate in a survey.
  • Be on the alert for the operator who poses as an inspector. If you’re approached in this way, ask for the person’s credentials and call the agency represented or the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) at 703-558-2222.
  • Watch out for bait-and-switch sales tactics. This is when a merchant advertises a product at a certain price or as possessing certain qualities, but when you attempt to buy it, you’re switched to a higher-priced or off-brand product.
  • Fight the temptation of referral selling. This scheme offers you the chance to make quick money by supplying your friends and relatives’ names as prospective customers.
  • Carefully investigate “free” or “bargain” offers. There is often a hidden trick or condition attached to the offer, which may result in you paying much more.
  • Don’t be rushed into signing any papers. Carefully read, examine and understand all conditions of any contract or agreements. Never sign a blank contract or a contract with blank spaces.
  • Don’t rely on verbal representations. Be sure that such promises can be found in the terms and conditions.
  • Ask questions. Know exactly what you’re buying and find out what the product or service will cost.
  • Know with whom you are dealing. Beware of the fly-by-night operator or the company without a local address. It’s safer to deal with a local merchant you know.
  • Don’t hesitate to shop around. You may find a better price for the same product elsewhere.