Scams… and More Scams
Don't Be Fooled by the Experts!
Trap and Tips:
Fall is in the air! It’s noticeably cooler and daylight is dwindling, but there is no shortage of new scams being crafted every day. Actually, new scams are usually variations on old ones with just enough of a “twist” to cause the consumer to wonder if it could be real. Scams have always existed but the problems with the economy in the last few years have caused more consumers to become willing to believe, or at least take a chance, that the person on the other end of the phone or who sent a letter, fax or email really has money for them.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
- You’ve won a large sum of money in a lottery or sweepstakes. All you have to do is send a check, cashier’s check or wire money to cover the taxes…or the administrative costs…or other fees. You may actually get a check and be asked to deposit it and return part of it, but the check will turn out to be fake, and you are responsible to your bank for the money. Many of the latest scams are using familiar sweepstakes’ names to cause confusion. Remember: Legitimate sweepstakes do not require a payment to collect winnings. Also, it is illegal under U.S. law to purchase foreign lottery tickets by mail or phone. If you didn’t enter the lottery or sweepstakes, how could you have won?
- You’ve been offered a job as a secret shopper and received a check for more than you need to do the job. You are supposed to deposit the check and return part of it to the “employer.” The check will turn out to be fake, and again, your bank will want you to cover it.
- You sold an item on an online auction site. The “buyer” sends you a check for more than the purchase price and wants you to deposit it and refund the difference. Again, the check will turn out to be fake.
- You get a call from your grandson or other relative or a friend who says he/she is in another state or another country and has been injured, arrested, owes money, etc., and needs you to wire money immediately. The caller seems to know just enough about your friend or relative to sound believable, but later you discover that your relative or friend is where he or she is supposed to be and is just fine.
- You get a call with the great news that someone wants to buy your timeshare! You just need to send money to cover the title search, closing costs, etc. The closing date, however, comes and goes with no sale, and the company can no longer be contacted. Initially, these scammers took personal checks and credit cards. Now they want cashier’s checks or wired money.
- You get a call from another company that knows all about the first timeshare resale company and not only has a real buyer for your timeshare but will get your money back from the first company…but first you need to send them money. This second company probably knows all about your situation with the first company because it is the first company using a different name.
- The latest variation of the timeshare resale scam: You get a call from someone saying he is with a government agency or a group working with or for a government agency. The name of the entity could begin with Bureau of Consumer Fraud… or Office of Consumer Advocates or the caller might say his office is working with the State of Florida or the Attorney General’s office to refund money to consumers for timeshare resale fraud. The call seems legitimate because the caller knows everything about the prior payment or payments you made for the supposed sale of your timeshare. The caller, however, knows this information because the call is from the same people who initially scammed you. Remember: The Florida Attorney General’s office does not work with third party organizations to collect money for consumers.
- Scammers are exceptionally good at telling people what they want to hear. Don’t believe it! You will likely be asked to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars up front with only the promise of receiving a larger sum later. Unfortunately, “later” never comes. If you receive one of the above types of calls or letters, hang up or tear it up. If you really want to check out such a call or letter, then first use your healthy skepticism and ask questions, and do some research. Don’t send money!
For more information, call Palm Beach County Consumer Affairs at 561-712-6600 (Boca/Delray 888-852-7362 toll free) or visit http://www.pbcgov.com/consumer.
The Consumer Traps & Tips is a service of the Palm Beach County Consumer Affairs Division.