Bruning warns about scams aimed at Nebraskans

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning warned consumers Monday about increasingly sophisticated financial scams, including one that exploits his own name.

Bruning said his office received more than 450 fraud-related consumer complaints in 2012. He said the most common scams involve fake checks, lottery letters and "mystery shopper" job offers that are initiated through postal mail or email.

Last week, Bruning said investigators discovered a bogus letter that purported to come from his office. The letter from "John Bruning," with an erroneous "h," asked a resident to send $1,450 to the Department of Fraud Investigation.

"People need to not be fooled by these types of things," Bruning said. "Call our office, and we'll tell you, we're never going to ask you for money."

Bruning said his office's consumer mediation center fielded 8,000 phone calls in 2012.

Bruning urged consumers to monitor their credit reports regularly. He said many of the foreign scams are coming from organized crime in Russia and east Africa. In most cases, his office lacks the resources to stop the overseas perpetrators.

Jim Hegarty, president of the Better Business Bureau in Nebraska, said residents should shred documents with any identifying information to protect themselves.

Lincoln Postmaster Kerry Kowalski said he received a scam email Monday morning that was forwarded from a local bank. The email claimed to be from the U.S. Postal Service, with information about an undelivered package. It included a link that would have downloaded malware onto the computer.

"With so much personal information out there, we want to make sure people understand that anybody can be vulnerable to attacks — not just the elderly," Kowalski said. "It's never too early to learn how to protect yourselves and your personal information."

Bruning made the announcement during National Consumer Protection Week.