Don’t we all wish the emails about winning buckets of money were real? Unfortunately, most of them are not. There are hundreds of scoundrels lurking on the Internet who trick innocent people into sending them money.
Scamming and scoundrels are nothing new. However, here are five growing scams worth reading about. Even if you’re hip to the latest schemes out there, you can pass this info along to your family and friends so they can protect themselves.
The Lottery Scam
The lottery scam is typically done through email or mail. Some victims also receive phone calls about their alleged winnings. One challenge about this scam is that the names of legitimate lottery organizations are often used to sound more convincing. You receive an email or letter stating that you’ve won a large sum of money in a lottery. You’re asked to keep the good news secret and immediately contact a claims agent to receive your winnings. After contacting the agent, you’re asked to pay processing fees or transfer charges upfront by phone so that the funds can be distributed.
Another lottery scam is similar to the one just mentioned, except when you call the claims agent, you’re propositioned with “extra prizes” such as cruises. In these instances, you’re encouraged to sign up for trips and prizes that cause you to spend a hefty amount of money upfront even before receiving winnings.
Reality Check: You can’t win a lottery unless you actually bought a ticket. Also, real lotteries deduct fees and taxes from the prize before it’s awarded. Notice that most email lotto scams are sent from personal accounts such as Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN or Gmail.
How to Handle It: Ignore the emails and mailings or just hang up once the phone call sounds suspicious. You also can report unsolicited emails and spam to the Federal Trade Commission at Spam@uce.gov.
The Roof/Driveway Scam
A salesman comes to your door explaining that he has extra asphalt, roofing materials or other home repair materials from another job and offers to work on your home for a low price. Sometimes this salesman starts a conversation by asking for directions or by asking to use your phone. At some point after the repair work begins, the salesman then says a mistake has been made and you owe thousands more than the original quote. He then threatens to stop the work and offers to escort you to the bank to withdraw the money owed. Oftentimes, once you figure out the scam, the check has already been cashed and you never hear from the salesman again.
Reality Check: It’s risky to let unsolicited salesmen perform work on your home. It’s unlikely that a salesman would have enough material to complete another job on a whim. Suspicions should rise when the salesman applies pressure to make an on-the-spot decision about home repairs.
How to Handle It: Firmly tell the salesman you aren’t interested and to leave your property. If the salesman refuses, threaten to call the police. Consider filing a police report if you are harassed or threatened.
The Out-of-the-Country Call Scam
A conman calls you from one of the following area codes: 809, 284, 649 or 876. These area codes are international numbers that are very expensive to call, and the rate can exceed $20 per minute. If you don’t have an international calling plan, these “ring and run” scams can be costly once you answer the call.
Reality Check: If you don’t recognize the number, assume it’s an out-of-area phone number. Some conmen claim to be a collection agency, doctor or police officer, but your suspicion should be flagged by their unfamiliar area code.
How to Handle It: Don’t let your curiosity get the best of you – don’t answer the call! If you don’t recognize the number, let the call go to voicemail. There’s no reason to return a call from an unidentified caller.
The IRS Scam
If you owe money to the IRS, be aware that you could be targeted and receive a fake IRS phone call. In this scam, you receive a call from “the IRS,” and the caller either states that your taxes were filed improperly or that you owe the IRS. The caller then threatens to take legal action or arrest you unless you make a payment over the phone. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, thousands of taxpayers have fallen for this scam and given up millions of dollars across the country.
Reality Check: If you do owe the IRS, you would first receive multiple notices by mail. Moreover, IRS spokesman Raphael Tulino says the IRS would never call you out of the blue with threats.
How to Handle It: Hang up and call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. Call your local police department to file a police report.
The Dating Site Scam
There are various scams circling around on dating sites. One of the most common involves a promising suitor who can’t afford to visit and requests money to pay for their flight, bus fare, etc. The money request typically comes after weeks of corresponding by email and phone. They press for your email, phone number and other personal information early on. Also, the suitor keeps pushing back visiting plans until you send or wire funds. Note that the suitors are very clever at getting sympathy and telling convincing stories. Additionally, many of them use fake photos, names, job titles, salaries and other information.
In some dating site scams, the suitor will send money to you with fake credit card info or counterfeit checks. Then, they’ll ask you to pay them back or finance expenses later before you realize that their payment is bogus.
Reality Check: If a stranger is offering money, has model-like photos and is hounding you on a dating site, there’s a fair chance that he/she could be too good to true! Also, your antenna should go up if anyone is giving you their sob story and asking for money soon after meeting you.
How to Handle It: File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center by clicking here.
These are only a few of the scams that prey on the innocent. Be vigilant and guarded with your personal information and your money. Verify identities if possible and trust your instinct when something doesn’t seem right.
Do you know of any other financial scams we didn’t talk about? Share them with other Zing readers in the comments below!