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You’ve probably seen the cameras installed on street lights to catch drivers who run red lights. Like other drivers, if you’ve ever been caught running a red light by one of these cameras, you probably just pay the fine that you receive in the mail. The problem is that scammers are now using drivers’ trusting (and lazy) nature to earn some quick cash, and even steal their identities.

The scam is very simple. The scammers simply pick a phone number at random and call. The voice on the end of the line sounds official: they tell you that they’re a police officer and they might even provide you with an identification number. You are scared into believing them as they warn you that you’ve been photographed blaring through a red light, and that you now have an overdue fine that could result in a court date or even jail time, if you don’t pay immediately over the phone.

Capitalizing on the element of fear and uncertainty, these scammers are hoping that you won’t notice some of the signs that this is fraudulent activity. First, the so-called "traffic cop" will ask you for your credit card information, including the three digit security code on the back. The caller will also ask for your birth date, Social Security number, and address, as well as other personal information that a real policy agency would already have. In fact, no police agency will call you to collect fines. Rather, everything is conducted in writing so that there will be a paper trail to follow and audit, if necessary.

Overall, use common sense if you find yourself in this situation. Never provide personal or financial information over the phone, email, text, or mail when contacted by a stranger. If you suspect you are a victim of a scam, immediately call your credit card company and cancel your cards. You can also have fraud alerts placed on your credit report by contacting the credit bureau. If you’ve given out your Social Security number, immediately contact the authorities and take additional steps to prevent future identity theft.

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