Money and Finances
Being a victim of a crime can often result in some type of financial loss. Victims may have money or valuables stolen directly or through a scam. They may have their property deeds stolen, or their possessions damaged. Some victims may have to miss work or school to talk to police or attorneys and to go to court. If the crime victim is hurt or injured by the offender, they also may have costly medical expenses that can impact finances. In many cases, the financial impact of this crime can linger long past the crime itself.
For some crime victims, the financial consequences of victimization can be overwhelming and long lasting. The financial stress they suffer can be as devastating as physical injuries and emotional trauma.
Below is some information about resources that can help you deal with the financial consequences of crime victimization, as well as information about some money-related crimes and where you can get help.
Crime victims can incur costs directly or indirectly as a result of a crime. Some of the ways you may incur costs include:
- Need to repair damaged property
- Replacing possessions
- Damage to your credit
- Unexpected bills for things you did not purchase
- Higher insurance rates as a result of victimization
- Installing security devices
- Medical expenses
- Costs related to going to court, such as travel, child care, legal expenses
- Counseling expenses
- Taking time off work
- Funeral or burial expenses
- Money stolen from a foreclosure home loan modification scam (while the victim is trying to save home from foreclosure)
- Loss of home due to property deed theft scam
If you are a victim of crime, you may be eligible for something called "crime victim compensation." Compensation can help cover the costs of things such as medical and counseling expenses, costs to replace damaged or stolen personal property like eyeglasses or clothes, and wages lost as a result of the crime. Financial compensation is often critical to crime victims' recovery, and sometimes their survival.
Many victims of crime do not realize that they have the right to ask for restitution if they suffered injuries, economic losses or damages. This payment to the victim by the offender can help the victim pay for things such as their medical bills or counseling expenses, and reimburse them for lost earnings and replace stolen or damaged belongings. You can get restitution as part of a criminal case or a domestic violence case in family court.
One of the financial results of becoming a crime victim may be difficulty in making your home mortgage payments.
Foreclosure Prevention Help
It is never too early or too late to seek assistance if you are behind on your mortgage. Contact the Attorney General's Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) hotline at 855-466-HOME (855-466-3456) to find free help.
HOPP is a network of housing counseling and legal services organizations across the state that provide free help to homeowners at risk of foreclosure. Hotline representatives can connect you to high-quality counseling or legal services available in each county in New York State. All services are provided free of charge.
You can also visit the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for a list of HUD-approved housing counseling agencies.
Reporting loan modification scams
The possibility of losing your home is scary. Unfortunately, there are people, scammers (define this term as a hover = someone who deliberately sets out to trick or defraud someone they believe is vulnerable), who may use your fear to take advantage of you through something called “foreclosure rescue scams.” (See Other Financial Fraud and Scams tab in this section.)
If you believe you are a victim of a loan modification scam, you can go to AGSCAMHELP.
For some people, the strain of being a victim of crime can have a severe impact on their ability to make ends meet. Injuries from the crime, physical or emotional, may impact your ability to work. As a result, the cost of housing, food, utilities, transportation, and daily living may become overwhelming. Know that if you are experiencing this kind of hardship, you may be eligible for public assistance (government benefits provided to those in need).
It may be embarrassing or humbling to ask for governmental help, especially if you have always been able to take care of yourself and your family without this type of support. But public assistance is specifically intended to help people who are struggling to meet their basic needs. You have the right to ask for this assistance and, if you are eligible, are entitled to receive it when you face a crisis and need support the most.
There are numerous types of government assistance available. Below you can find information on some of the common types of assistance.
What is Temporary Assistance?
Temporary Assistance (TA) is temporary help for individuals and children who are in need. If you are unable to work, can’t find a job, or if your job doesn’t pay enough, TA may be able to help you pay your housing costs, feed your family, obtain health insurance, assist with utility costs and other expenses.
The two major TA programs are Family Assistance and Safety Net Assistance.
Family Assistance (FA) provides cash assistance to eligible families that have a minor child living with a parent, two parents, or a caretaker relative. Under FA, eligible adults are limited to receiving benefits for a total of 60 months in their lifetime.
Safety Net Assistance (SNA) is available for people not eligible for other assistance programs. This includes single adults, childless couples, and people who have exceeded the 60-month lifetime limit on assistance.
What is Emergency Assistance?
If you are experiencing an emergency, you may be eligible for emergency assistance. An emergency is an urgent need that has to be taken care of immediately. Examples of an emergency include:
- You are homeless
- You have little or no food
- You are being evicted from your home
- Your utilities have been or will be shut-off
- You or a family member is a victim of domestic violence
Examples of emergency assistance include:
- Payment of temporary housing (hotel/motel)
- Payment of past due shelter costs
- Payment of past due utility bills
- Payment of domestic violence shelter costs
You DO NOT have to be eligible for ongoing Temporary Assistance to receive Emergency Assistance.
How do I apply for Temporary Assistance?
Anyone is entitled to apply for public assistance.
To find out if you can receive temporary assistance, including help with an emergency, file an application with your local Department of Social Services. You will be asked to provide certain documentation or proof as part of your intake interview. If you have an emergency, you will be interviewed on the same day you apply.
You can find information about temporary assistance and the documentation or proof you need for your interview on the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance site.
What if I am a victim of domestic violence?
If you are fleeing abuse, alone or with your children, and enter a domestic violence shelter in New York State, you will be required to apply for public assistance. Under our state’s domestic violence shelter laws, public assistance may cover the cost of your stay.
Everyone who files for assistance should be given information and notice of their rights if they are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. If you identify yourself as a victim of domestic violence, you have the right to speak to a staff person called a “domestic violence liaison.”
The domestic violence liaison is there to help you find resources and see if you can be excused from certain public assistance program requirements that may put your safety at risk. For example, the liaison may be able to get you a waiver from any employment or training requirement if attending work or training may endanger you.
For more information on how a domestic violence liaison can help, please see Public Benefits and Domestic Violence Fact Sheet.
Identity theft is unlike most other crimes. People may not even know that they are a victim of identity theft until they are denied loans, get calls from bill collectors, or find out that their credit score has dropped. Finding out that your identity has been stolen can be frightening and dealing with the consequences can be extremely stressful. Below is some information that can help.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft happens when an identity thief uses your personal or financial information without your permission.
If someone uses your name, address, social security number, credit card, bank account numbers, or medical insurance numbers without your permission to buy things, get benefits, file taxes, or pretend to be you, that’s identity theft. Identity theft is a serious crime, and it is important to identify it and stop the theft as soon as possible.
You may be a victim of identity theft if:
- There are withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
- You don’t get your bills or other mail.
- There are charges for goods or services you didn’t buy on your credit/debit card statements.
- You receive statements for credit cards you didn’t open.
- There are errors or unfamiliar accounts on your credit report.
- Your medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
- Debt collectors call you about debts that are not yours.
- The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
What do I do?
There are steps you can take as soon as you suspect that your personal information has been stolen. You can go to IdentityTheft.gov to get a personal recovery plan that walks you through each step, and helps you fix problems caused by identity theft.
Below are some things you can do:
- Call the fraud department at your credit card company or bank. Explain that your identity has been stolen and ask them to close or freeze the accounts.
- Change all account passwords and PINs. Consider securing your passwords.
- Place a fraud alert and get your credit reports.
- Contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a free fraud alert. That company must tell the other two.
- Get your free credit report and review it carefully. Make note of any charges you don’t recognize.
- Contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a free fraud alert. That company must tell the other two.
- Report identity theft to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission)
- Go to IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338.
- You will get an Identity Theft Report and a recovery plan. While this process may be time-consuming, it is important because it guarantees you certain rights.
- After you get an Identity Theft Report, contact the fraud departments of each business where the identity thief bought something using your account, or opened a new account in your name. Ask them to send you a letter confirming that the false accounts or charges are not yours and you are not responsible for them.
- Consider putting a credit freeze on your account. This stops all access to your credit report unless you remove the freeze. Contact one of the three credit bureaus to do this.
- File a report with your local police.
- Replace any government-issued identification that was stolen, such as driver’s license, social security card, or passport.
You can find sample letters to help you resolve your identity theft issues on the Federal Trade Commission site.
What are my rights as a victim of identity theft?
There are several federal laws that protect victims of identity theft. If someone steals your identity, you have the right to:
- Get an Identity Theft Report.
- Get free copies of your credit report.
- Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report.
- Place a 7-year extended fraud alert on your credit report.
- Get fraudulent information removed from your credit report.
- Stop creditors and debt collectors from reporting fraudulent accounts.
- Get copies of documents related to the identity theft.
- Stop debt collectors from contacting you.
- Have your financial responsibility limited when someone uses your credit card or debit card without your permission.
You also have additional victim rights when the identity thief is criminally prosecuted in federal court.
You can find more information about identity theft victim rights on the FTC website.
How can I protect myself from identity theft?
Identity theft can happen to anyone, but there are some things you can do to lower your risk:
- Store all your personal information in a safe place. Be careful with your wallet, credit and debit cards, social security number and PIN numbers.
- Do not respond to unknown requests for personal information by phone, mail or online. The IRS will not call you and ask for your personal information over the phone.
- Routinely and carefully read your credit card and bank statements.
- Know your payment due dates, and contact the sender if bills are late or do not arrive.
- Collect mail promptly. When you are away from your home for a few days, place a “Mail Hold” with the US Postal Service.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, expired credit cards, and other documents containing personal information before throwing them away.
- Review credit card and bank statements. Watch for any purchase or transaction that you didn’t make.
- Review your credit reports at least once a year. You can order it for free from Annual Credit Report.
- Safeguard your personal information online, on your computer and phone. Use secure websites, install firewalls and anti-virus software, and create complex passwords that cannot be guessed.
Each year in the United States, millions of people are victims of financial fraud crimes. Fraud crimes happen when someone tricks you into believing that you are paying for goods or services, but you never receive what you paid for. Anyone can become a victim of fraud crimes.
These types of crimes may make you question your own judgement and destroy your trust in others, especially if the offender (the person who commits the crime) is someone you know or trust. You may feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell anyone what happened to you, or may be worried that you will be criticized by friends or family.
You are not alone, and there are resources that can help you.
What is financial fraud?
Financial fraud happens when you give money to a person or business but never receive what you paid for. The other person or business had no intention of providing what they sold you, or the goods, services, or financial benefits promised never existed.
What are some common types of financial fraud and scams?
Fraud crimes often happen over the internet, telephone, or by letters or brochures offering free things such as vacations, services, or investment opportunities. Examples of fraud can include:
- Telemarketing fraud (telephone calls selling fake goods or services, or saying you won a financial prize, item, or vacation)
- Mail fraud (use of mail to obtain money or property by dishonesty)
- Identity theft (link to identity theft section within the website content)
- Bank fraud (obtaining money by pretending to be a bank)
- Embezzlement (when someone who is in charge of your funds takes or uses the money wrongly)
- Pyramid or Ponzi schemes (when you are promised high financial returns, but instead of investing your funds, they are given to earlier investors)
- Advance fee schemes (when you pay money in anticipation of receiving something of greater value but receive little or nothing in return)
- Internet fraud (use of the internet to defraud people)
- Telephone con-artist scam (someone pretends to be a family member in immediate need of money, or the caller says they are from the IRS and demands you pay a phony tax bill)
Fraud crimes can be prosecuted at either the state or federal level, depending on a number of factors including the type of fraud, the amount of money stolen, the laws violated, and the location of the crime.
You can find more information about common scams at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) website.
Where can I go for help?
If you are a victim of a crime, you can contact a crime victim advocate near you.
You can contact the Bureau of Consumer Frauds & Protection or call the Consumer Helpline at 1-800-771-7755.
You can also contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or call 1-855-411-2732.
You can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Foreclosure Rescue Scams
Foreclosure is a legal process where a bank or mortgage lender files a lawsuit to force the sale of a property to get back money owed when a homeowner/borrower falls behind on payments. New York State has a network of non-profit organizations that provide free assistance to homeowners in foreclosure, including negotiating with the lender. There are also companies and organizations that charge fees to provide similar “foreclosure rescue” or other mortgage assistance. Some of these companies that charge fees are scams.
The most common type of foreclosure rescue scam involves mortgage assistance companies that make promises to negotiate a loan modification and charge upfront fees but don’t deliver on their promises.
The scammer (someone who deliberately sets out to trick or defraud someone they believe is vulnerable) often promises great results and may even offer a “money-back guarantee.” You should be aware that when working with lenders to get out of default, there is never a guarantee. It is also illegal in New York State to charge fees before providing these types of services.
Other scams involve attorneys who bring baseless lawsuits just to charge consumers a fee, individuals or companies that convince homeowners to transfer the deed to their property over to someone else, or use of fake documents to transfer ownership of a property.
How do I know if I can trust a mortgage assistance company?
If you are facing foreclosure, be aware of mortgage assistance companies that do the following:
- Make promises and guarantee a specific result.
- Charge fees before any work is done. It is almost always illegal to ask for upfront fees for loan modification services.
- Ask you to stop making your regular mortgage payments and pay them instead.
- Ask you to sign paperwork that you don’t understand.
- Ask you to turn over your deed or transfer ownership of your home to them or someone else.
- Aggressively try to sell their services to you.
You can go to AGSCAMHELP to check if a company has been reported and to find honest and accurate information about the mortgage modification or foreclosure process.
What can I do if I think I am being scammed?
If you are unsure if you can trust a company or individual to help you with your home or mortgage, call the Attorney General's Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) hotline at 855-466-3456.
You can also do the following:
Housing Rental Scams
A housing rental scam happens when a scammer pretends to be the owner of the rental property. They take other people’s real rental listings and place them on Craigslist or other websites with the scammer’s own contact information, email, and phone number.
How do I know if I’m a victim of housing rental scam?
Here are some warning signs:
- Ads for the property and/or emails from the property owner contain a lot of spelling or grammatical mistakes, or may use a lot of capital letters.
- The property owner says that they are overseas (for example, working as a missionary) or is too busy to conduct business in person.
- You are asked to sign a lease before you see the property, or are charged a fee to view it first.
- The advertised price of the rental property is much lower than similar properties.
- You are asked for an unusually high security deposit.
- The property owner asks you to email them a completed application, but the application asks for a lot of personal information that can be used to commit identity theft.
What can I do if I’m a victim of a rental scam?
If you are a victim of a rental scam, you can:
- Call your local police.
- File a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Contact the publisher of the false ad to let them know what happened.
For immediate help and to report a crime, call 911.
Visit the NYS Social Programs website for help with housing, food, unemployment assistance, and other services.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - confidential support for people in distress: 1-800-273-8255.
Adult Protective Services: 1-844-697-3505.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Hotline: 1-800-942-6906.