Common Scams & How To Avoid Them
Types of Scams
You arrive at your hotel and check in at the front desk. When checking in, you give the front desk your credit card (for all the charges for your room). You get to your room and settle in.
Someone calls the front desk and asks for (example) Room 620 - which happens to be your room. The phone rings in your room. You answer and the person on the other end says the following, 'This is the front desk. When checking in, we came cross a problem with your charge card information. Please re-read me your credit card number and verify the last 3 digits numbers at the reverse side of your charge card.'
Not thinking anything, you might give this person your information, since the call seems to come from the front desk. But actually, it is a scam of someone calling from outside the hotel/front desk. They ask for a random room number. Then, ask you for credit card information and address information. Sounding so professional, that you do, thinking you are talking to the front desk.
If you ever encounter this problem on your vacation, tell the caller that you will be down at the front desk to clear up any problems. Then, go to the front desk and ask if there was a problem. If there was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone called to scam you of your credit card information, acting like a front desk employee.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are warning consumers to be aware of a multi-state scam targeting utility customers. The scam claims that President Obama is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills. The scammers contact consumers through posted flyers, social media, texting and or visiting consumers in person. The scammers ask for the consumer’s social security number and then provide a phony Federal Reserve Bank routing number to use to receive the credit or bill payment. The routing number is fake and no payments are posted to the consumer’s bill.
Consumers are warned not to provide personal information to strangers who come to your door or in response to unsolicited emails or social media posts. Question anyone who presents themselves as a representative of a utility company and ask for identification before allowing anyone inside your home or onto your property.
The victim is contacted via telephone, email or letter and told that he/she is the sole heir to the estate of a distant relative, almost always overseas. Typically, the victim is asked to wire or mail money to an attorney overseas to cover taxes, probate fees, or other fees. The promised inheritance is never received.
Auto and Home Repair Scams
The victim is contacted at home, or often in the parking lot of a retail store, and offered inexpensive repair services, such as vehicle dent repair, roofing, or driveway repair. Typically, the victim is asked to pay up-front. Often, once payment is made, the promised repairs never occur or are performed in a substandard fashion. Other times, the suspect will "discover" that additional repairs are needed and charge the victim exorbitant rates for unneeded (and often fictitious) repairs.
Favorite Grandson Scams
The victim is contacted, typically via email but rarely by telephone, by someone claiming to be his/her grandson/daughter. The caller claims to have been arrested, robbed or involved in a traffic accident overseas, and to be in need of money for vehicle repairs, return travel, bail, or attorney fees. In a variation of this scam, the caller purports to be an attorney calling on behalf of an incarcerated family member.
Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams
The victim is contacted via telephone, email or letter and told that he/she has won money and/or a luxury car in a lottery or sweepstakes. The email or letter will often purport to be from a reputable contest (i.e., Publisher's Clearing House) or a reputable company (i.e., Pepsi or Microsoft). Typically, the victim is asked to wire or mail money overseas to cover taxes, customs fees, vehicle registration fees, etc. The promised winnings never arrive.
Bank Examiner Scams
The victim is contacted via telephone by someone purporting to be a police investigator or bank official. The victim is asked to help with an internal bank investigation intended to expose a crooked teller, who is dispensing fake currency or otherwise defrauding customers. The victim is asked to go to his/her local bank branch and make a large cash withdrawal at a specific time. After making the withdrawal and exiting the bank, the victim is met outside by the “investigator,” who thanks the victim, takes the withdrawn currency, and promises to credit the victim’s account. The “investigator” is later discovered not to be a police officer or bank employee.
Work From Home Scams
The victim is contacted via email and offered a job, often described as “accounts receivable,” “accounting,” “mystery shopper.” The victim is told that his/her job will entail receiving checks from “customers” and depositing those checks in his/her personal bank account. The victim is told to retain a portion of each check as compensation and remit the balance, via wire transfer, to the “employer.” The checks deposited by the victim are later discovered to be stolen/forged/counterfeit and the victim’s account is debited accordingly. Typically, this occurs after the “employer” has received the wire transfer. These scams also sometimes occur when the victim responds to online job postings.
On-Line Auction and Sales Scams
The victim is contacted via email by a subject expressing interest in an item that the victim has posted for-sale on Craigslist.com or another similar online sales/auction site. The “buyer” claims to live outside the area or to be traveling abroad. The “buyer” agrees to have a friend mail the victim a check for the purchase of the item and arrange for shipment of the item. The victim typically receives a check that’s face value far exceeds the purchase price, and is asked to return the “accidental” overage via wire transfer. The check is later discovered to be stolen/forged/counterfeit and the “buyer” never, in fact, arranges for shipment of the item.
Rental / Mortgage Scams
The victim typically responds to an online advertisement offering, for-rent, a house, apartment or vacation time-share. The rent is typically far below market value. The victim is asked to remit the rent, deposit, etc. via wire transfer in advance of move-in/arrival. Once the victim remits the payment, the suspect ceases all communication, and, nearly always, the rental property is determined to be fictitious. In a variation of this scam, some suspects have accepted rent or even purchase down-payments for distressed (abandoned/foreclosed) properties that they do not have the right to rent/sell.
The victim is contacted via telephone by a subject claiming to be a real estate “broker.” The “broker” claims to represent an out-of-state or international buyer who is interested in purchasing the victim’s time-share. Typically, the “broker” offers a purchase price that far exceeds the fair market value of the time-share. Upon agreeing to the price, the victim is directed to remit a fee (property taxes, transfer fees, filing fees, etc.) via wire transfer in advance of the sale. Once the victim remits the payment, the suspect ceases all communication and the sale is never consummated.
The victim is contacted via email by a subject claiming to be an employee of the victim’s bank, credit card issuer, or a government agency (IRS, FBI, etc.). The message often indicates that fraud has been detected on an account and the bank/agency needs to verify the victim’s true personal information. The victim is asked to reply by email, or click on a link that redirects him/her to a website, and provide account information. Frequently, the email (and website to which the victim is directed) appear to be associated with a legitimate business but, in fact, are not.
The victim is contacted via telephone by a subject claiming to be an employee of the victim’s bank or credit card issuer. The victim is often told that fraud has been detected on the account and the bank needs to verify the victim’s true personal information. In a variation of this scam, the victim is contacted by a subject claiming to be employed by his/her bank or credit card issuer, with an offer of a better interest rate or mortgage refinancing. In either case, the victim is directed to “confirm” his/her account number, name, date of birth, social security number, mother’s maiden name, and other personal information typically utilized by financial institutions.
The victim is contacted, seemingly by happenstance, inside or outside a retail store by an attractive (typically, substantially younger) subject of the opposite sex, who claims to remember the victim from a previous encounter. Frequently, the subject will claim to have been a nurse or caretaker for the victim or the victim’s deceased spouse. The subject will invite the victim for coffee to “catch up” and, thereafter, pursue a friendship. Often, after a substantial number of platonic get-togethers, the subject will profess his/her “love” for the victim, followed, shortly-thereafter, with a request for money. Most often, the subject will request money for medical care, tuition, or a business venture. In a variation of this scam, the victim may be contacted via an online dating website by a subject claiming to live in another state or country. After a substantial number of emails and/or telephone calls, the subject will ask the victim for money to purchase airline tickets to visit the victim. Once the money is remitted, the promised visit never occurs.
Tips to Avoid These (and Other) Scams
Con artists are creative, so no list of scams can ever be exhaustive, but following these tips will minimize your risk of being a victim.
- Be wary of anyone requesting payment via wire transfer. Regardless of the name or shipping address you provide, such transfers can be claimed anywhere in the world.
- Do not rely on your telephone’s caller-ID function. Unfortunately, “spoofing” applications exist that allow a criminal to obscure his true telephone number or even assume the telephone number of another.
- Do not provide any personal information in response to unsolicited telephone calls or email messages. If you need to provide or verify your personal information with your bank or credit card issuer, call them at the number listed on your card or statement.
- Remember: you will not win any contests that you did not enter.
- Do business with reputable companies that are known to you.
- Do your homework: consult the Better Business Bureau and “Google” any unfamiliar businesses or individuals with whom you are planning to do business.
- Be wary of cashing checks from individuals you do not know. If you must cash such a check, ask your bank to authenticate the check prior to deposit.
- Above all else: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!