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The fake lottery or sweepstakes scam only seems to get bigger and more dangerous. Promising victims they have won thousands of dollars in a Canadian or European lottery, they target the elderly, who seem to be particularly susceptible to these schemes.
Typically the victim receives a “letter of notification” that they WON the lottery. Along with instructions to cash the enclosed check (which will be counterfeit) and return a certain sum to them for “handling, taxes or insurance” via Western Union. No actual lottery is going to advise you to send them money.
While elderly people lost the most money, lottery scams also tricked younger people into believing they had won a large cash prize from a foreign lottery or sweepstakes. In each case, the victims sent money, usually to Canada, thinking they had to pay insurance or taxes before they could collect these bogus prizes.
No legitimate contest makes you pay a fee to collect a prize. For many of the elderly victims, the scam artists made multiple demands for cash, falsely claiming that more money was needed in order to pay for "taxes" or "insurance."
Sons and daughters have filed complaints after failing to convince their elderly parent that there was no prize.
You can't win a contest that you didn't enter. But it's hard to convince someone that they are the victim of a scam, especially when the con artists have made numerous phone calls and formed a bond with the victim.
This scam, in which identity thieves "phish" for a consumer's personal information, are getting more prevalent, due in large part to technological advances. The use of email now makes it increasingly easy for criminals to trick people into revealing account numbers, passwords and social security numbers.
Cleverly designed emails appear to be from a bank, credit union, or online payment service like PayPal, requesting account verification. If the consumer clicks on a link in the email, they are taken to a site designed to look like the bank's actual site, where they are instructed to enter the sensitive information, which is captured and used for identity theft purposes.
In 2006, “phishing” arrived on the scene. Instead of asking the spam recipient to click on a link, they are instructed to call a toll-free customer service number, which seems more the way a financial institution might do business. When they call, an automated system instructs the caller to enter account numbers or passwords, which are then recorded by the scammer.
These scams continue to make our list, year after year, because they continue to ensnare thousands of victims. This is the scam in which the victim receives an email, allegedly from a wealthy, dying person in another country who is desperately trying to get their fortune out of the country. They promise the victim a sizable percentage if they will help.
The victim either has to send money to cover fees or provide their bank account information, or both. The scams are mostly run from Nigeria and get their name because they are covered in section 419 in the Nigerian penal code.
Most people find these emails a big joke, but seemingly sophisticated people have fallen hard for them, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Make Money Eating Out!” “Get Paid to Shop!” “Get Rich Without Effort!” These ads pop up and blink all over the Internet, full of fantastic claims and “true stories." They will tell you about the woman who makes $10,000 a month—just for shopping.
Although there are legitimate secret shopping clubs most people are victimized by the vast majority of these schemes that will send a worthless check and tell you to deposit it in your account and then return a portion for their expenses. By the time the check clears your bank it’s too late!
The Craigslist scam makes our top ten list because of its potential to wreak harm in the years ahead by engaging Internet advertisement and sales as a basis for the scam.
The scheme is basically the fake check scam, with a twist. The seller receives a check for payment of the goods offered. The check is for an amount much higher than the advertised sale. When contacted the buyer makes an excuse for the over-payment and requests you to deposit the “big check” in your account. The buyer then offers you extra money for your time and trouble due to this “mistake” in the amount. He then requests the balance to be sent back to him via Western Union.
"Most people who use Craigslist have great stories to tell about their experiences with buyers, sellers, tenants, landlords and such, but we also receive occasional reports of scams and fraud," Craigslist warns on its Web site.
"We've found that one of the best ways to avoid this problem is to keep all transactions local. Whenever possible, don't do business with anyone who is not in your local area."
This is a particularly vile scam aimed at senior citizens, perhaps the most vulnerable scam victims. An elderly person is targeted by the scammer who calls and says something like, "It's me, Grandpa." The elderly person will respond, thinking it's one of their grandchildren. These calls are often made late at night.
The scammer then tells a tale of woe, saying they are in trouble and need some money or your credit card information, "and please don't tell mom." The grandparent obligingly sends a few hundred dollars, thinking they're helping a grandchild. Investigators say it works more than you might think. Look for unexplained excuses such as an accident, in jail, stopped by police, vehicle broke down, etc.
These have been around for decades, but they still lure people with the promise of high earnings for little work. Sometimes marketed under terms such as “Business Opportunities,” these scams are designed for the sole purpose of ripping you off. In one scam, a Durham, N.C., consumer was promised training and a technical job which he could do from his home. After paying the required fees, the consumer received nothing. When a refund was finally offered, the check bounced. Always check with your local BBB before accepting a too-good-to-be-true offer. Remember, if these scams were legitimate, we would all be at home instead of doing the 8 to 5.
We’ve all received these emails. Identity thieves use email in an attempt to steal social security numbers and other personal information. While most consumers have learned not to respond to these requests for bank account and credit card numbers, it’s another thing when you receive a notice from the IRS. In a scary twist to the old phishing scams, this email claims to come from IRS Criminal Investigation. The IRS does not send unsolicited emails or ask for personal financial information. The IRS advises consumers to exercise caution when receiving any unsolicited emails. These scams are especially increased around tax times of the year.
This scam really gets consumers mad. Sometimes the amount is fairly small, maybe $9.95. It doesn’t matter. If you see a charge on a bill in which you did not authorize, don’t ignore it. According to the FTC, the practice of adding additional fees, known as “cramming,” accounted for millions of dollars in 2007, with $30 million in phony collect call charges alone. Always check your bills carefully and challenge any unauthorized charges. Question even insignificant amounts like 25 or 50 cents. These could be “test runs” by the suspects to determine if the account is active or if you would take action.
Most of the scams on the FTC’s Top 10 list are there because of the volume of activity. This scam made the FTC’s list because of its despicable nature. The scammer, identifying himself as a Red Cross representative, calls a military spouse and claims that the spouse’s mate was injured in Iraq and was med-evacuated out of the country. The caller claims that treatment can not be administered until certain paperwork is completed. They ask the spouse to provide the active duty partner’s social security number and date of birth. With that information in hand, the scammer is set to steal the serviceman’s identity. The Red Cross says it does not typically contact military dependents and would usually go through military channels that already have all the information they would need.
Phony Job Scam, Bogus Fuel Scam, Oprah Ticket Scam, Weight Loss Scam, Buy Your Home Scam, E-Card Greeting Scam
If It Sounds Too Good to be True …… Most likely it is a SCAM
The solution? Keep your wits about you, be skeptical and remember -- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Ken Hartley, Security/Loss Prevention Officer, Texas Bank and Trust Company