Scams, Fraud and That Deal That Seems Just Too Good To Be True

How To Protect Yourself From Scams

Nowadays, people have to be very careful with their money.  Unfortunately, there are many thieves and con-artists who make their living taking advantage of people who trust others.  And now, the internet and cell phones make it very easy to talk to somebody from half a world away, and still sound like you are calling from down the street.  You wouldn’t think that you could put yourself at risk of losing money by just answering the phone.  But, you can. 

Here are examples of a few everyday tasks that can put you at-risk of being scammed:

  • Having a Facebook account – some con-artists are very good at studying the parts of Facebook that are public and taking down the information that they gather about certain users.  If you talk about your Grandkids on Facebook, scammers will be able to put you on a list and sell that list to outfits that specialize in taking advantage of senior citizens.
  • Having an overdue bill – many many people have overdue bills.  Scammers call numbers at random and pretend to be a debt collector.  They are very good at faking and convince way too many people to send them money to ‘settle the debt’.  Sadly, a lot of people don’t realize that the person on the phone is not a debt-collector; they’re just trying to get you to send them cash.  If someone on the phone seems a little too willing to let you wire money to them to take care of a bill that you owe, perhaps they are trying to scam you.
  • Getting an automated call at home – we’ve all gotten the call that says ‘Press 3 to stop receiving these calls.’  Seems like a good idea to press 3, right? ……  WRONG! If you press 3, your phone number goes onto a list of ‘good’ phone numbers that will be sold to salespeople all over the Country.  If you get an automated call at home….Hang Up!
  • Answering the call, because you recognize Caller ID – Unfortunately, scammers can actually trick Caller ID to show any number they want.  (this is called ‘spoofing’) This means that they can call you and make it look like somebody you know.  Be careful when you pick up that phone.

But, how do you steer clear of somebody who has a scheme to take your money?  There is no magic wand that will protect you.  The best way to beat the scammers, con-artists and thieves is to hit them where it hurts.  Don’t fall for it! 

Here are a few of the most common scams to watch out for and a few ways to protect yourself from getting conned.

If you have any questions about this (or any other) issue; or would like to speak with a counselor, please send an e-mail to [email protected] .  We will put you in touch with a counselor and help you the best way we can!

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Scams You Might See

Here is a general description of some of the scams that pop up more often.  But – BE CAREFUL – this is not every scam that you have to worry about.  If you have a conversation with somebody on the phone (or anywhere) and something doesn’t feel quite right about the story they are giving you, try going to the SCAMFINDER website at the Plain Dealer.  They have descriptions about many more scams.   You might be surprised about how familiar the story that you are hearing sounds!  

The ‘We’ll-help-you-with-your-foreclosure-for-a-fee’ scam – There are many Non-profit agencies that will provide counseling assistance to homeowners in distress for free. They also happen to be the people who are in the best position to help you.  Scammers will tell you that they have ‘Better contacts’ with the lending industry and that they can ‘Streamline the process’. But, what they really have is a better way to get your money.  Don’t fall for it! Find a local Non-profit agency and meet face-to-face with their counselors. Click here for more information.

The ‘work-from-your-home-and-make-a-thousand-dollars-a-day’ scam –This scam is popular because so many people are actually looking for jobs.  The story is that you can get a job (which pays a ton of money, takes very little effort and doesn’t require you to move) and “all you have to do is sign up!”  What these con-artists are really after is your private information and some way to get your money.  But, when you give them access to your: Social Security Number, Credit Card number, Checking account information, or Savings account information, during the hiring process, they have you.  Once they have that private information, they have an easy path to taking your money. Don’t fall for it!

The ‘We-just-need-someone-with-an-American-bank-account-to-help-us-get-our-money’ scam – The original story was a Nigerian prince who had to flee the Country, and was looking for an American bank account to ‘store’ his funds, until his wife and kids could get here.  More recently, the scam involves a fake ‘new company’ that just needs a local bank account to store its funds, until they can clear overseas.  10% will be yours, just for depositing their checks and waiting.  How convenient!  (they even tell you to let their check clear, before you pay them)

However, what most people don’t know is that your bank can approve a check (and deposit the money in your account) and then call you a few days later and say “Oh, we’re sorry. That check that we said had cleared?  Well, it didn’t and you actually have no money in your account” Unfortunately, this call comes AFTER you have written the new company a check for ‘their’ money. That company disappears and your bank wants you to repay them for the giant check that you wrote.  Don’t fall for it!

The ‘e-mail-from-your-credit-card-company’s-security-department’ scam – This e-mail will say “we experienced a security breach at the bank’s headquarters and we’re checking on our clients’ accounts.  Please verify your account number and password” and it gives specific instructions on how to respond.  The e-mail even has the bank’s logo and a return e-mail address that looks like it is going to the bank.  Once you do this, you will have sent your credit card number and your password to some stranger hovered over the screen in a basement half way around the world and NOT working for your bank!

BEWARE! If any creditor of yours has a security problem, they will send a letter – NOT an e-mail.  Don’t fall for it!  

The ‘pay-a-small-fee-and-claim-your-lottery-winnings’ scam – If a lottery is on the up-and-up, they will NEVER require you to pay a fee to claim your prize.  What these fraudsters do is get you to pay a small ‘fee’ to claim the prize and then keep calling you and increasing the money that they want.  Pretty soon, you’ve lost tons of money.  If someone asks you to pay to claim a prize, hang up!

The ‘help-me-grandma-I’m-in-another-country-and-am-out-of-money’ scam – Most seniors have grandkids.  So, when they get a call from some young person saying “Grandma, I’m in [another Country]” or “I’m in [another State] and I’ve gotten in trouble. I need you to send some money right away.  I can’t reach Mom & Dad and I’ve been arrested…”  While you are trying to figure out what is going on, the phone is handed to someone else who asks for your account information.  But, Don’t fall for this!

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Protect Yourself

  • Go SLOWLY… Scam artists try to get you to say yes, during your first conversation with them.  Take a day (or two) and think it over
  • Most Scam artists are Heavy on promises and Light on details.  Don’t just believe the pitch… ask for details!
  • Trust your gut.  Too often, people who are scammed say “I kind of felt like something wasn’t right,” yet they fell for a scam.  Don’t be afraid to say “No thanks” or  ‘I don’t want to.’  These simple phrases might save you a whole lotta money.
  • Ohio law makes written contracts VERY important.  Don’t pay anyone, until you get a copy of the contract that describes what they will do for you and exactly how much it will cost.

What’s the Law?

The Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA) is the major law in Ohio that protects consumers. The CSPA says that people who sell consumer goods are not allowed to:

  • Do anything that it is unfair, deceptive or unconscionable;   
  • Lie about the things that they sell, their price or other terms of the deal;
  • Taking advantage of a consumer, when they know that the consumer doesn’t understand what is going on;
  • Lie in their ads.