Just when police think they've seen it all, people think of a new way to lie, cheat, and steal. And a recent investigation shows one in every ten people fall victim to scams.
So what are the most popular scams in the springtime? Here's the breakdown:
Tim Smith visited Cars.com looking for a new car - but almost lost a huge chunk of change after coming across a fraudulent ad. Smith and his wife thought they found a great deal and were ready to make the purchase - all they had to do was send the money.
"We got an email basically saying we had to go through an 'eBay Buyer Protection program' where we would have to wire money to them," says Smith.
$3,700 dollars - that's all the seller needed and the deal would be done. But Smith says certain errors caught his eye and had him second-guessing the situation.
"One of the emails from 'eBay Motors' had grammatical errors. It says 'Thank you for contacting our department ‘in' behalf of your transaction not ‘on' behalf.' " That one small mistake was enough to make Smith suspicious. He called eBay about the sale before going through with it, and employees at eBay confirmed his suspicions. They were completely unaffiliated with the sale: it turns out whoever was trying to scam him had copied and pasted the eBay Motors logo onto their page in an attempt to look legitimate.
Luckily, Smith hadn't wired any money. If he had - he would have been scammed.
Ever had anyone knock on your door, offering to fix your roof, driveway, or gutter? While some of these offers can be legitimate, many are not, and the door-knock scam is an easy one to fall victim to. And these types of "fix-it" scams are common as the weather warms up. You should be wary of people offering to fix your roof or read your water meter. Many times, customers pay these guys and either get a shoddy job or never see them again.
Lt. Gerken explains, "That's another form of a scam where you'll pay cash to someone and instead of re-tarring your driveway they'll put down old oil or whatever and it will last until it rains."
What's even scarier is scammers will branch out into burglary and theft. Sometimes part of the door-knock scam is to distract the homeowner - so a second person can break-in through a back door or window.
Lt. Gerken explains: "What they'll do is they'll have one person make entry into the home and distract the person and other people will sneak in after the fact or at the same time and they'll go through the house and try to get whatever they can throughout the house," says Gerken.
So how do you avoid the door-knocking scammer? The Better Business Bureau says on their website, "A reputable contractor won't make customers decide on the spot. Ask family, friends, and co-workers for names of reliable contractors. Call references and see finished products. Check out a company's BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org."
Spring break kicked off vacation season, and with that we have no shortage of scammers trying to use that to cash in on people's sympathy. Ever heard of the Stranded Friend Scam? Here's how it works: It's an email sent from a friend's email address claiming to be stuck on a vacation and in need of money. The email usually says something like "Help! I lost my credit card and have no cash, can you wire me money and help me buy a ticket out of here?"
Don't feel bad if you get hacked... it can happen to anyone. Just don't fall for it, don't wire money, and contact your friend directly by phone if you need to be sure.
And if you realize you've been hacked by someone sending out these types of messages, let your friends and loved ones know so they don't fall prey to the scammer.
Another online scam to watch for is the Sweepstakes Scam. The Ohio Attorney General's Office tells WTOL 11 that in 2012; it received 21 sweepstakes scam complaints. This is when someone claims you won a sweepstake or contest or inherited money. The scammers claim that all you have to do is cash the check and wire back some money for shipping or service fees. In reality, you're kissing that wired money goodbye.
The bottom line? Lt. Gerken says, "Anytime someone offers you money I would look into it before I would send a dollar to them."
So, while you might think "it could never happen to me," you can see how easy it is to fall for some of these tricks.
To see the final scam to watch out for this spring, tune into WTOL 11 Your Morning.
Where are you most vulnerable?
Internet technology expert Jay Schell [full disclosure: Mr. Schell is a WTOL 11 employee] tells us the three major ways scammers can access your information are:
So what do you need to do to protect yourself online?
And finally, if you've been the victim of a crime like this, you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) here.
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