‘If it sounds too good to be true ... ’: 9 scams to watch out for in Ohio

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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What are the riskiest consumer scams?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Scammers are trying to make a quick buck off the trust, innocence or naiveté of people.

Someone allegedly tried to scam an elderly Fairfield man when he recently received a phone message indicating his Social Security card may have been compromised. The message included a phone number and instructions to the Social Security Administration, but the number provided was to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Defrauding people is a billion-dollar industry, and a 2019 report by TrueCaller showed Americans lost more than $10 billion due to phone scams alone. The Ohio Attorney General has outlined several types of scams designed to defraud people.

ExploreButler County police warn of new scam that joins other efforts to trick residents

Here are some common signs of a potential scam:

  • Being asked to wire money to a stranger or friend in need
  • Being selected for a mystery shopping job, especially if a person never applied
  • Being pressured to “act now.”
  • Being asked to buy a prepaid money card
  • Sending money in advance to secure or insure a loan
  • Winning a contest a person never heard of or entered
  • Having to pay a fee to receive the “prize”
  • Requests for personal information
  • Requests for a large down-payment
  • A company that refuses to provide written information

There are many types of scams, but here are some common ones. It is not a complete list, which can be found at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov.

Credit Repair Scams

These companies will charge people hundreds of dollars with the promises of restored credit and erased debt. However, they do little or nothing to improve a person’s credit. If a person needs to repair their credit or consolidate debt, they can arrange payment plans and improve their credit score themselves for little or no cost through a nonprofit credit counseling agency.

Fake Check Scams

This scam starts out by someone sending a person a check or money order and are asked to deposit it in their account. They have then asked for a wire-transfer for a portion of the money, minus a nice bonus for the sender as a “thank you” for helping out. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office says regardless of the pitch, the result is the same: the check or money order received is counterfeit. It will be returned to the bank unpaid, and the full amount will be deducted from that person’s account. “Never wire-transfer money to a stranger,” according to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Friend-In-Need Scams

This scam is where a person is contacted by an alleged friend or family member, usually by e-mail or social media, asking for money to be sent immediately. This may in fact be an imposter or hacker. Before sending money, contact that friend or family member directly, using a different method of communication. Ask a question only the friend or family member would know how to answer.

Home Improvement Fraud

This occurs when contractors or companies don’t complete the work they were paid to do. They offer false promises and often disappear without doing any work or after doing a poor job. Always obtain at least three estimates, get everything in writing and check references. Contractors who knock on a door are required by law to provide people with a three-day right-to-cancel prior to beginning any work.

Identity Theft

Identity theft happens when someone fraudulently uses a person’s personal information, such as a bank account number or Social Security number, to obtain credit, take out a loan, receive medical treatment, get identification, or otherwise pretend to be the person they’re attempting to scam. Never give personal information to any unfamiliar or untrustworthy person, especially when solicited over the phone.

Imposter Scams

Someone may call or email [pretending to be from a government agency ― like the IRS or the local court. The person will demand immediate payment, likely for back taxes or an old court fee, and threaten arrest if payment is not made immediately. The scammer may also request personal information, such as a Social Security Number. Never give any personal information out over the phone from an unsolicited caller.

Phone Fraud

Don’t trust the caller ID. Scam­mers use a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or “spoofing” to disguise the number that ap­pears on a person’s caller ID. The caller ID may show a person’s bank or a local area code, but the call is actually coming from a scammer possibly in another country. Any caller asking for personal or financial information, hang up. A bank nor government agency will never request a Social Security number or account information over the phone.

Phishing

Some scammers pretend to be a person’s bank or a gov­ernment agency to “phish” for personal informa­tion. They ask for a person to update or confirm an account by submit­ting their bank account number, password, or Social Security Number. Never respond to unexpected requests for personal information. A bank nor the Internal Revenue Service will never request personal information over the phone or by e-mail.

Sweepstake and Prize Scams

Someone may fictitiously claim a person won the lottery, a contest, or another prize. In order to collect winnings, however, the person will be asked to pay an advance fee, often via wire-transfer or money order. This is a scam. Legitimate sweepstakes are free and require no purchase.

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