Category Archives: Fraud

Ohioans Report Police and Fire Scams

7/22/2016

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned that several Ohioans have reported receiving suspicious calls asking for donations supposedly to support police and fire causes.

The calls reportedly ask consumers to give money to support wounded police officers and firefighters, underfunded departments, scholarship funds for families of officers, or similar causes. Consumers say the callers refuse to answer questions or to provide viable call-back numbers.

The calls appear to come from Ohio phone numbers, but the numbers could be spoofed or the calls could be made over the Internet, meaning the caller could be located somewhere else entirely.

“Charity scams take money away from legitimate organizations,” Attorney General DeWine said. “While we encourage people to be generous, we also encourage them to be cautious. A little research can go a long way. If you get a call asking for a donation, check it out to make sure it’s not a scam.”

Signs of a potential charity scam include callers who:

  • Make vague claims about a cause.
  • Use a name similar to a well-known organization.
  • Provide little or no detailed information.
  • Refuse to answer questions.
  • Refuse to provide a call-back number.
  • Use a “spoofed” phone number.
  • Demand immediate payment.
  • Ask for payment via wire transfer or prepaid card.
  • Ask for payment to an individual instead of an organization.

Not all calls seeking charitable donations are potential scams. Legitimate charities and professional solicitors, which generally are for-profit businesses paid to collect donations, can and do seek donations over the phone. When a charitable organization calls a consumer seeking a donation, the caller must provide the name of the organization and the location of its principal place of business. Professional solicitors also must provide this basic information.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section maintains a registry of charitable organizations and professional solicitors that raise money in Ohio. Both must annually file informational returns or financial reports with the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General also investigates alleged fraud and takes legal action to protect charitable funds.

To determine whether an organization has registered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or to report suspicious charitable activity, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

Attorney General DeWine Offers Charitable Giving Tips Following Orlando Tragedy

COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today offered charitable giving tips to Ohioans who want to donate in the wake of the Orlando tragedy.

“Following the tragedy in Orlando, people in Ohio and across the country have shown an outpouring of generosity. They want to know how they can help,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We’re offering charitable giving tips to help people make informed decisions, avoid charity scams, and make sure their donations are used how they want them to be used.”

Tips for making charitable donations after a tragedy: •Carefully evaluate donation requests. Following a national tragedy, some sham charities pop up to take advantage of people’s generosity. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites have been vetted. The first donation request you find may not be the best.

  • Evaluate charities using resources such as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (or another state attorney general’s office), IRS Select Check, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.
  • Beware of “look-alike” websites or accounts. Be skeptical of charities or groups with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. They may be intended to confuse donors. If you receive a message from an organization asking for a donation, confirm that the request truly is from the organization, and not an imposter, by contacting the organization directly or visiting its website.
  • Be careful when giving to newly formed charities. Some charities that are formed shortly after a tragedy have good intentions but lack the experience to properly handle donors’ contributions. Established charities are more likely to have experience to respond following a tragedy and to have a track record that you can review.
  • Review claims carefully. Some groups sell merchandise online and claim that “100 percent of the proceeds” will benefit a specific charitable purpose, but this claim does not necessarily mean 100 percent of the sales price will go toward the cause. Contact the organization to ask how much of each purchase will support the cause. If the organization cannot give you an answer, consider donating another way.

Tips for peer-to-peer fundraising or crowdfunding: •Contact a charity before raising money on its behalf. Sometimes individual supporters raise money for charities through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, such as by setting up a page on a crowdfunding site. If you want to set up a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, contact the charity in advance to get permission to use its name and to make sure the representations you make on your page are correct.

  • Before donating, find out how your contribution will be used. If you want to make a contribution on a peer-to-peer fundraising page, verify that your donation will go directly to the charity versus to the individual supporter.
  • Check fees. Find out what percentage of your donation will go to the charity, versus the website, and find out whether you will be charged extra fees when you donate.
  • Review privacy policies. Find out what the website will do (if anything) with your personal information. Be wary of websites that do not provide a privacy policy.

Tips for giving to an individual or family: •Verify an account. Ask the fundraiser whether there is a trust or deposit account established for the individual’s or family’s benefit. Contact the banking institution to verify the existence of the account, and check locally to confirm.

  • Do not give cash. Contribute directly to the fund, not to an individual. For example, send a check that is payable to the fund, not to an individual, and mail it directly to the fund.
  • Understand that your contribution may not be tax deductible. Contributions earmarked for relief of a particular individual or family are not tax deductible, even if they are made to a qualified charitable organization. Before making a donation, ask whether the charitable contribution is tax deductible, and verify your findings with your tax advisor or the IRS. The fact that a charity has a tax identification number does not necessarily mean your contribution is tax deductible. Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax deductible.
  • Respect the family’s requests. If you want to establish a fund to assist victims of a tragedy, be especially careful to respect the wishes of the victim’s family and friends. Obtain written permission to use the names or photographs of any person or organization you want to use in your fundraising appeals. Be specific and transparent about how the funds will be used and how quickly collected funds will be distributed. If there are multiple purposes for the fund, such as funding future community needs, be clear about those purposes. Many donors give with the expectation that all funds will be distributed quickly and solely to victims and their families.

Those who suspect a charity scam or questionable charitable activity should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at http://www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.

 

Prince’s Last Words on Video? Watch Out for This Click Bait Scam!

April 22, 2016


Better Business Bureau would like to thank BBB Accredited Business KnowB4 for providing this warning:

PrinceYesterday, news broke that Prince Rogers Nelson was found dead in his home in Minneapolis at age 57. He was found unresponsive in an elevator and was declared dead shortly after. Internet criminals are going to exploit this celebrity death in a number of ways, so be careful with anything related to Price’s death: emails, attachments, any social media (especially Facebook), texts on your phone, anything. There will be a number of scams related to this, so Think Before You Click!” 


BBB Tips to Protect Yourself from “Click Bait” Scams:

BBB urges consumers to take steps to protect yourself from scams shared through email and social media:

  • Don’t take the bait. Stay away from promotions of “exclusive,” “shocking” or “sensational” footage. If it sounds too outlandish to be true, it is probably a scam.
  • Hover over a link to see its true destination. Before you click, mouse over the link to see where it will take you. Don’t click on links leading to unfamiliar websites.

For more information on scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scamstopper). Report scams (whether or not you’ve lost money) to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).

Attorney General DeWine Warns of Top Tax Scams Reported to AG’s Office

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned Ohioans about two of the most common tax-related scams reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office – the “IRS” phone scam and tax identity theft.

The IRS phone scam generally begins with a call claiming the recipient is in trouble with the IRS and must call a certain phone number to avoid arrest or legal action. Eventually, the person is asked to send money or personal information to resolve the supposed problem.

Since Jan. 1, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received more than 1,400 reports about IRS scams. Most people who report the scam haven’t lost money, but nationally, since October 2013, more than 5,000 victims collectively have paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam, according to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

“I think many people hear ‘IRS’ and are scared to death,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Scam artists rely on that. Sometimes they threaten you. They tell you how much you owe, tell you to buy a prepaid card, and ask you to give the card number over the phone. The real IRS won’t call to demand immediate payment over the phone without ever sending you written information.”

Tax identity theft, another commonly reported problem, generally occurs when an imposter files a fraudulent tax return using someone else’s Social Security number in order to obtain that person’s tax refund. In 2015, the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section received more than 700 complaints about tax-related identity theft. (To resolve this type of identity theft, individuals generally must work with the IRS or state tax department.)

To avoid scams during tax season, consumers should take steps to protect themselves, including:

  • File your tax return promptly. This makes it less likely that an imposter will be able to file a return in your name to steal your refund.
  • Don’t respond to threatening robocalls. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone who threatens to arrest you for not paying taxes, it’s probably a scam. Don’t respond to the call, and don’t provide payment or personal information over the phone.
  • Look into call-blocking options. Check with your phone carrier and third-party services to determine whether call-blocking services could help you stop unwanted calls.
  • Make sure you trust your tax filer. Before giving out any personal information, check a tax preparer’s credentials. For example, review information in the IRS’s directory of federal tax return preparers.
  • Protect your information online. When entering sensitive tax information online, use a secure Internet connection; avoid using free public Wi-Fi. Be wary of email messages that appear to come from a legitimate organization but ask you to verify your information by clicking on a link or providing personal information. The message may be part of a phishing scam.

IRS or U.S. Treasury impersonation scams can be reported to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.treasury.gov/tigta or 800-366-4484. Tax identity theft should be reported to the IRS (for federal taxes) or the Ohio Department of Taxation (for state taxes).

Consumers who want help detecting a potential scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.

Attorney General DeWine Releases Top Consumer Complaint Categories of 2015

(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today released the top categories of complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section in 2015, when more than 27,000 complaints were recorded.

“Through our complaint process, we’ve helped people solve disputes, secure refunds, and clear fraudulent charges,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We encourage consumers to contact us when they think they’ve been treated unfairly or when they need help solving a problem.”

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section works with individuals, businesses, and nonprofits to resolve complaints through informal dispute resolution. According to complaint information, more than $2.4 million was returned or adjusted in 2015 through complaint resolution.

The 2015 top complaint categories were:

  1. Motor vehicles
  2. Professional services
  3. Collections, credit reporting, or financial services
  4. Shopping, food, or beverages
  5. Utilities, phone, Internet, or TV
  6. Home or property improvement
  7. Identity theft
  8. Potential scams or other (such as sweepstakes, do-not-call issues, or grant offers)

Nearly a quarter of all complaints involved motor vehicles. The most common motor-vehicle complaint related to used vehicle sales. Other top motor-vehicle complaints involved vehicle repairs and new vehicle sales.

Identity theft complaints continued to rise in 2015, when more consumers sought assistance from the office’s Identity Theft Unit, which works with creditors and other agencies to correct problems resulting from identity theft. In 2015, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received more than 1,670 identity theft complaints, an increase of more than 300 from the previous year. It also helped victims clear more than $658,000 in fraudulent charges, according to identity-theft complaint information.

Other areas of concern cited among the top complaint categories were collections calls, wireless services, sweepstakes or prizes, cable/bundling, and in-store or online shopping issues.

Consumer complaints can be filed online at http://www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by phone at 800-282-0515.

Attorney General DeWine Warns Consumers to Avoid Lottery Scams as Jackpot Rises

scam(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned consumers to avoid lottery and sweepstakes scams as the estimated Powerball jackpot hits $800 million.

In the past month, the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received more than two dozen complaints involving sweepstakes or prize scams. The average reported loss is about $5,000.

“If you receive a call saying you’ve won the lottery, it’s almost always a scam,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Con artists play on what’s in the news, so we’re warning people to be wary of scams as the Powerball jackpot grows.”

The scams often begin with a phone call or a letter claiming the consumer has won a few million dollars through a lottery or sweepstakes. In order to collect the winnings, consumers are told to wire a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to cover fees or taxes. In reality, they haven’t won a prize, and any money they send will be lost.

Individuals who send money once usually will be contacted again and asked to send more money to cover taxes, customs fees, or other costs supposedly associated with delivering the winnings. As long as the victim continues to send money, the scam artist will keep calling.

Signs of a lottery scam include:

  • Winning a lottery you don’t remember entering.
  • Receiving calls from a lottery or government agency saying you’ve won millions.
  • Receiving an unexpected check for a few thousand dollars.
  • Having to pay a fee to collect your winnings.
  • Having to send money via wire transfer or prepaid card.

Attorney General DeWine encourages consumers to take the following steps to avoid scams:

  • Be very skeptical of someone who calls you and says you’ve won the lottery. These calls are almost always scams.
  • Don’t wire money or pay a fee to receive your winnings.
  • Don’t give out your personal information to someone who contacts you unexpectedly over the phone or through email.
  • Be skeptical if you are asked to call an out-of-country phone number in connection with a lottery or sweepstakes win.
  • Be skeptical if you receive an unexpected check for a few thousand dollars. It could be a counterfeit check used as part of a scam.
  • If you have older relatives or friends, look for signs that they have been targeted by lottery scams. Red flags include unusual banking activities, wire transfer receipts, or an increased number of phone calls made to them.

Consumers should report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling 800-282-0515.

Con Artists Bank on Credit Card Chip Confusion

Many banks are issuing new debit and credit cards with an embedded chip for additional security. The new chips are meant to reduce fraud, but the hype around the new cards is having an unintended side effect… fodder for scams.

How the Scam Works:

You receive an email saying that your new credit or debit card with the chip is on the way. But first you need to update your account. The message seems to be from your bank or credit card issuer. It may have the company’s logo and even the reply email address.

All you need to do, claims the message, is reply and confirm your personal and banking information. Or, in another version, the message instructs you to click on a link to continue the process.

Don’t do it! If you share personal information, the scammer can use it to commit identity theft. If you click on the link, you may download malware to your device. Scammers use malware to steal your personal information, send spam and commit fraud.

Tips to Spot a Phishing Scam:

• Be wary of unexpected emails that contain links or attachments. Do not click on links or open files in unfamiliar emails.

• Consider how the company normally contacts you. If a company usually contacts you by phone, be suspicious if you suddenly start receiving emails or text messages without ever opting in to the new communications. Banks and credit card issuers have secure communications channels that require you to log into your account before you can read the message.

• Don’t believe what you see. Just because an email looks real, doesn’t mean it is. Scammers can fake anything from a company logo to the “Sent” email address.

• Check the company’s website or call them. If something sounds suspicious, confirm it by checking with the bank or credit card issuer. The customer service phone number will be on the back of the card. If you want to look on the company’s website, look for the URL on your statement or do a web search. DON’T click on any links in the message you suspect is a scam.

• Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Always be wary of messages that don’t contain your name, last digits of your account number or other personalizing information.