As a consumer, you should beware of any unknown caller who creates a sense of urgency or uses high-pressure tactics to “act now.” That caller is probably a scam artist. Be cautious of callers, web ads or mail that pushes you to act, unless you’ve initiated the contact or the communication is from a trusted, reliable source — and you can prove it.
If there is one sentence you should memorize regarding how not to become a victim of a scam it is this: “Never wire money to someone you don’t know.” Another good sentence to remember is this: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Listen to your “inner voice” when it’s telling you to beware, or call a trusted friend or family member to get another perspective before you act.
Sometimes people who fall victim to scam artists are embarrassed and ashamed that they’ve fallen for crazy schemes. Many times these individuals have participated in the scam because they or their loved ones desperately need financial support. If this has happened to you, or your loved one, we encourage you to set your pride aside and contact our office. The more detailed reports we obtain, the better positioned we will be to identify and prosecute these criminals.
So, if you have concerns about whether something is legitimate or a scam, or you suspect that you have become a victim of a scam, please contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office at 601-359-4230 or 1-800-281-4418, if you are in Mississippi.
Below is information on some typical scams that are in operation around the country today. Be sure to click through to get even more pointers on how you can avoid becoming a victim of a scam.
Credit Card Scams
Consumers should be aware of a very slick credit card scam being reported across the United States. The scammer calls with your credit card number and asks for the security code on the back of the credit card. This gives the scammer the ability to order items from “secure” internet sites until they’ve depleted your account.
Never give out the security code on the back of your credit card, unless you placed the call yourself. Your credit card company would not call you and ask for this information because they already have it on file.
Click HERE to find out details about this scam. By understanding how the credit card scam works, you’ll be better prepared to protect yourself.
Check Overpayment Scams
Check Overpayment Scams target consumers selling cars or other valuable items through classified ads or online auction sites. Unsuspecting sellers get stuck when scammers pass off bogus cashier’s checks, corporate checks or personal checks to pay for the items. Here’s how it happens: A scam artist replies to a classified ad or auction posting, offers to pay for the item with a check, and then comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price. The scammer asks the seller to wire back the difference after depositing the check. The seller honors the request, and later, when the scammer’s check bounces, the seller is left liable for the entire amount.
Counterfeit Check Scams
“It’s your lucky day! You just won a foreign lottery!” The letter says so, and the “cashier’s check to cover the taxes and fees is included.” The letter says that all you have to do to get your winnings is deposit the check and wire the money to the sender to pay the taxes and fees. You’re guaranteed that when they get your payment, you’ll get your prize. There’s just one catch: This is a scam. The check, money order, or cashier’s check is no good, even though it appears to be legitimate. Once the fake check bounces, you’re left owing the money you’ve wired — and the scammer is enjoying his take and looking for someone else to take advantage of. Just remember: If you haven’t entered a lottery, you haven’t won it.
Click HERE for a list of steps to take to avoid falling into the Checking Scam trap.
Computer Support Scams
Scam artists use the phone to try to break into your computer. They call, claiming to be computer technicians associated with well-known companies like Microsoft. They say that they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer to trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don’t need. They may even “walk you through” your computer, “checking for viruses.”
These scammers take advantage of your concerns about viruses and other threats. They know that computer users know it’s important to install security software. The purpose behind their scheme isn’t to protect your computer; it’s to take your money.
Computer software companies do not call customers about computer viruses. Just hang up.
Click HERE to find out more about computer scams.
Debt Collector Scams
Under this scheme, scammers pose as “debt collectors” and attempt to collect for a payday loan or other loan, stating that you have defaulted. The scammers even may have your Social Security number, old bank account numbers, driver’s license numbers, home addresses, employer information and even the names of personal friends and professional references. (Remember — Unless you protect the information from the public, social media is a treasure-trove of personal information about you.)
You should know that under the Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse any person while attempting to collect a debt. This includes threats of arrest or removal from your home. Just hang up.
Click HERE to read more about how to handle debt collector scammers.
In an Emergency Scam, a caller or e-mailer makes up an urgent situation – “I’ve been arrested,” “I’ve been mugged,” “I’m in the hospital”– and targets you with pleas for help and MONEY. Many times the scammer will pose as a family member or will claim to be representing a family member or a close friend. Never wire or send money to someone you don’t know. Especially if it is because of a so-called “emergency.”
Check HERE to find out about other types of emergency scams.
Employment scams are generally too-good-to-be-true offers–work from home and earn thousands of dollars a month, no experience needed–and you end up with no job and out of money. It could be a secret shopper scheme (see below), work-from-home scam, or phony offer of employment, but job-related scams can be devastating. They dash your hopes and steal your money and/or your identity.
It’s easy for scammers to create professional-looking email, websites and online “job applications.” Be concerned and cautious if the “employer” only wants to interview you over the phone, and asks you to wire money for supplies or other up-front expenses or to fill out an online form that asks for personal data like your Social Security Number or bank account.
Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
Home Improvement Scams
Look out for home improvement contractors who leave your home worse than they found it. “Precaution” is a good word to remember when you’re about to invest in expensive home repairs.
Click HERE for more information and a list of warning signs that your home contractor may not be reputable.
Home Rental Scams
Phony rental ads continue to surface with the sole purpose of stealing money from unsuspecting renters. Sophisticated scammers use the Internet to duplicate postings from legitimate sites and then re-post these ads after altering them. Usually, the original ads placed on Craigslist* or other online classified sites are for actual properties that are for sale, not rent.
Never wire money to someone you do not know.
Click HERE for more warning signs to help you avoid the Rental Property scam.
*Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you discover or suspect a legitimate Craigslist ad has been hacked by scammers.
Identity Theft Scams
There are a million ways to steal someone’s identity, and once thieves have your personal information, they can max out your credit cards, drain your bank account and ruin your credit rating.
Identity theft scams come in all shapes and sizes:
- Friends or grandchildren “stranded” in a foreign country
- The hotel front desk “verifying” your credit card in the middle of the night
- “Charity” solicitations from groups you’ve never supported in the past
Never, ever give your Social Security Number, bank account or credit card numbers to someone who has contacted you to ask for them.
Don’t became a victim of insurance fraud – either directly or indirectly. Know the scams, read about real-life cases, and find out how you can fight back by visiting the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud web site. The lengths to which some scammers will go to defraud insurance companies and unsuspecting citizens may amaze you.
Jamaican Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams
Lottery or prize scams all have something in common: Money — the scammer wants yours. Another thing they have in common: Talking. These scammers love to talk, and they are artists of persuasion — sometimes in most profane terms.
Never wire money to someone you have never met. If you are subjected to repeated phone calls from the scammer, just hang up.
Click HERE for more information on Jamaican Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams.
Money Wiring Scams
You may have noticed many of the scams listed on this page involve wiring money, and you may have noticed warnings about it already. Here’s why: Wiring money is like sending cash. How can you spot a money wiring scam? Easy. Someone you do not know asks you to wire money.
Do not wire money to someone you do not know. But, if you already have, call the Attorney General’s Office at 601-359-4230 or toll-free at 1-800-281-4418, if you are in Mississippi.
Click HERE for more information on Money Wiring Scams.
“Phishing” is a high-tech scam that uses spam or pop-up messages on your computer to deceive you into disclosing your credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information. Click HERE to see examples of Visa and PayPal phishing scams.
For detailed information on how to avoid becoming a victim of a Phishing Scam, click HERE.
Publisher’s Clearing House Scams
Publisher’s Clearing House (PCH) is a legitimate sweepstakes company that has awarded millions in cash and prizes over the years. Unfortunately, criminals have found a way to cash in on their good name and trick unsuspecting people with the Publisher’s Clearing House Scam.
While scammers may be convincing, Click HERE to learn five ways to know if an offer is from the REAL Publisher’s Clearing House, or if it’s a Scam.
Secret Shopper Scams
In a Secret Shopper Scam, you are hired to be a secret shopper and asked to evaluate the effectiveness of a money transfer service. You are given a check and told to deposit it in your bank account and withdraw the amount in cash. Then, you are told to take the cash to the money transfer service specified, and typically, send the transfer to a person in a Canadian city. Then, you are supposed to evaluate your experience – but no one collects the evaluation. All that’s collected is your money.
The secret shopper scenario is just a scam to get your money. Con artists who use these schemes can easily avoid detection. When funds are sent through wire transfer services, the recipients can pick up the money at other locations within the same country; it is nearly impossible for the sender to identify or locate the recipient.
Never wire money to someone you do not know.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.