Consumer Scams

Online Dating Scams Leave Broken Hearts, Empty Wallets
February 10, 2016

No doubt countless Mississippians will celebrate this Valentine’s Day with someone they met online. Dating websites and social networking apps can be beneficial to those looking for love, but others may fall victim to con artists only looking for money.

Attorney General Jim Hood today encouraged Mississippi consumers to learn how to spot “sweetheart scams” in order to prevent their friends and family from having both broken hearts and empty wallets.

“Scammers may create fake social media or dating website profiles and pretend to have a romantic interest in someone, when really their only interest is in deceiving people into sending money,” Attorney General Hood said. “These manipulators will lie about their backgrounds and their whereabouts and even propose marriage if they think they can bilk their victims out of a few more dollars.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated that victims of online dating scams lose an average of $100,000 to their fake suitors, and that, in the last six months of 2014 alone, Americans lost a total of $82 million to the scam. Of the victims, approximately 82 percent are female.

According to the FBI, the most common targets of these scammers are women over 40 who are divorced, widowed or disabled, although the agency stresses that everyone is at risk.

Typically, scammers build a connection with their victim before eventually asking victims to send money. Some people may even be asked to cash fake checks or ship stolen merchandise unwittingly.

Fortunately, there are some specific warning signs of con artists on online dating sites.

Attorney General Hood urged consumers to be cautious about online relationships with anyone who:

  • Immediately professes love
  • Quickly wants to communicate through personal e-mail or instant messaging services instead of through the dating site.
  • Claims to be an American who is living or working overseas.
  • Seeks money to supposedly cover expenses for various items like trips or medical emergencies, or because they claim themselves to have been victims of crime.
  • Cancels plans to meet or visit their supposed love interest because of unforeseen events.

Attorney General Hood said consumers should never wire money to someone they meet online. Once money is wired, especially if it is wired to a foreign country, it is almost impossible to recover. Consumers who want to date online should go to websites that are reputable and widely known.


ATTORNEY GENERAL JIM HOOD AND THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY ISSUES SCAM ALERT: Scammers Impersonate Personnel from the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security
December 10, 2015

Attorney General Jim Hood and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) are warning Mississippi consumers of an email scam in which the scammers pose as personnel from the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security (OHS) to illicitly collect money.

Mississippi residents reported receiving email notices from accounts that appear to be sent from personnel of the OHS.  However, the email was not sent by OHS personnel, and it is a fraudulent attempt to trick consumers into sending money.

The fraudulent email states, “This is to informed you that we have today received the letter Indemnity and fund transfer certificate and other documents from the Nigeria Embassy here in Washington, DC as directed, so bear in mind that we are very satisfy with the documents and in that regard you are to pay for the Homeland Security fund Transfer clearance fee of US$1,250 before we will instructed the crediting of your fund into your bank account.”

The email advises (“advice”) the consumer to send the fee “with our cashier’s information” to an individual in Bentonia, Mississippi at an incomplete address and tells the consumer “immediately the fee is made do forward the information to enable give instruction for the crediting of your funds into your bank account.”

“These emails are fraudulent and were not sent by the Mississippi OHS,” said Attorney General Hood. “Recipients should be warned that the intent of these emails is to illicitly collect money and, in likely follow-up correspondence, personal information. Consumers should not, under any circumstances, send money or provide any personal financial information in response to this email.”

“The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security does not solicit money, period, via email, telephone or otherwise,” said MOHS Director Rusty Barnes.

The email contains severable notable signs of fraud, such as poor grammar and misspelled words.  However, some of the email-based fraud attempts are extremely sophisticated and look completely legitimate.  In addition, this email seeks to fool consumers into believing it is from a legitimate or trusted source.

Attorney General Hood and the MDPS offer these tips to protect themselves from becoming a victim of this email scam and/or similar scams:

  • Federal and State Governmental agencies, including the Mississippi OHS, do not send emails asking for money under any circumstances.
  • Consumers should not respond to any unsolicited e-mails or click on any embedded links associated with such e-mails, as these links may contain viruses or malware.
  • Once a consumer is defrauded, it is not unusual for scammers to trade a victim’s contact information with other scamming entities.
  • Never give out, send or confirm financial or other sensitive information, including your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you know who you’re dealing with.

If you get an email or call from someone claiming to be from or affiliated with the Mississippi OHS and they ask for money or financial information, do not respond.  Instead, call the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-281-4418 to report the email.  If you have fallen victim to a scam, you can click here to file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division.


Attorney General Jim Hood Warns Consumers of Recent Phishing Emails Sent to Users’ Google Accounts
November 30, 2015

Attorney General Jim Hood warns consumers to be cautious in clicking links contained in any unsolicited emails sent to their email accounts.  One version of this common scam recently reappeared when Google account holders received an email asking the users to review the details of their accounts in order to comply with regulations. These types of scams are commonly referred to as “phishing.”

The new email appears to be from Google and indicates that the user needs to review the details of their Google account in order to comply with governmental regulations. If the user clicks the link, they are directed to a malicious site that will steal their Google credentials and potentially install malicious code onto their computers.

“Our investigators have confirmed this is a phishing scam,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “If you click the link, you will see that the word ‘account’ is misspelled on the website the user is directed to through the link.  Spelling and grammatical errors are telltale signs of a scam.”

If you do have a Google account and receive a similar email, don’t click on the link, and don’t submit any usernames, passwords or personal information via email.  Instead, go to https://accounts.google.com/ and use your secure login to verify any account activity.

If you do receive a phishing email, forward the email to the business purporting to send it so that they can be aware their name is being used in a phishing attempt.  If you have provided information in response to a phishing scam, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-281-4418.


Be Aware of a Recent Spoofing Scam
November 20, 2015

Attorney General Jim Hood is warning Mississippians today of a phone scam that challenges even the savviest consumer.  “Scammers realize that consumers are much wiser and more likely to reject calls from unfamiliar numbers,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “They use caller ID spoofing technology to impersonate a known or trusted phone number to trick potential victims into answering the phone.”

Here is how the scam works.  The phone rings, and we recognize the number on the Caller ID.  The caller id shows that it is a local business, a neighbor down the street, or even the consumer’s own name and number.   Because the number is known or familiar, the consumer answers the phone.

“Unfortunately, technology has evolved, and we can no longer fully trust that the number displayed is the number that is actually calling us,” said Attorney General Hood.  “Our advice has always been to answer only those calls from known numbers, but that won’t work when the caller identification has been spoofed, or is displaying incorrect information.”

Mississippi joined other states in 2010 to enact the Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act (2010 Miss. H.B. 872) to regulate and prohibit caller ID spoofing. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the scammers had a first amendment right to spoof phone numbers and upheld the legality of “non-harmful spoofing” in 2012 when it overturned the state law.

The Attorney General’s Office offers the following information and tips to follow on these types of scams:

  • DO NOT answer the phone for a call that shows it is from your own number.  That is a sure sign of a scam.
  • REMEMBER THAT THE CALLER ID CAN BE MANIPULATED. Don’t completely rely on what appears on the screen. Scammers use technology that lets them display any number or organization’s name on your screen.
  • HANG UP as soon as you realize the call is a scam. Even answering simple questions in the affirmative or negative could be used to try to scam you.
  • BE SUSPICIOUS of anyone who is vague in identifying themselves on the phone.
  • NEVER WIRE OR SEND MONEY in any form to persons or organizations you do not know.
  • DON’T CALL THEM BACK.   If you receive a voice mail message, do not call the scammer back.
  • GUARD YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.  Do not provide bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers to anyone calling you over the phone. Giving out personal information out could cause you to become a victim of identity theft.
  • DON’T BE INTIMIDATED BY THREATS OF ARREST.  Scammers may try to intimidate you by threatening to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested. Don’t believe them.  If your physical safety is threatened in any form or fashion, be sure to report this to local authorities.