If people want your money or personal information, be skeptical. Ask questions. Double and triple check who they are and why they want it, even if they seem perfectly legitimate.
Even if they seem authoritarian.
Twinsburg Detective Greg Kopniske said one new scam that has been popping up in Northeast Ohio involves a caller who identifies himself as a police detective.
He has learned that money in your bank account has turned out to be counterfeit.
Your account is going to be frozen, the “detective” says, unless you get your money out of there fast.
In a recent case in Mayfield Heights, a man agreed to meet the caller in a parking lot, then led him to his bank. The victim was so shaken, he took out $15,000 and handed it over to avoid having the rest of his money frozen.
There are so many red flags with this scenario, it can be hard to believe it succeeded.
But Kopniske said thieves don’t need their cons to succeed often.
“They can sit around making these phone calls for seven, eight hours a day,” he said. “They only need one person to say yes to make their whole week.”
What could you do if this were you?
“Ask questions,” Kopniske said. “How did you get my bank information? What is your phone number so I can call you back? Allow me to call my bank to see what they have to say.”
For your physical safety, never ever agree to meet someone. If police had a legitimate reason to ask you questions, they would ask you to come to the station, he said.
After you recognize this con game and hang up on the caller, be sure to call and report it to your local police department. It’s probably someone local who will target someone else next.
Here are three more popular scams, with advice on how to respond:
Fake check scams
This one can hit in a variety of ways.
You might get a check in the mail for any number of reasons, with the directions to cash it, then wire some of the money back to pay some kind of fee.
Or someone will buy something that you’ve listed on eBay or Craigslist, then send you a check greater than the amount charged. Oops, the check writer says when he calls later. Could you cash that check and send him the overage back?
Or you find some Internet offer to earn money by becoming a secret shopper or a restaurant reviewer. They’ll pay you up front, but for legal reasons, you’ll have to cash the check and mail back the portion that will pay your taxes.
The one thing all of these scenarios have in common is that the check is no good, but your bank might not discover that for weeks. When they do, you’ll be on the hook for the lost money.
What to do:
If someone gives you a check to cash, make sure the bank has ample time to make sure the funds are good before you spend that money.
Having stated that, Kopniske said he can’t envision a scenario that would require you to send part of a cashed check back to a source.
Try telling the callers that you’ll tear up the check and they can just send you the correct amount. If they are legitimate, they can do that.
If not, report this to the police or the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515.
The foreclosure crisis of recent years created a breeding ground for scammers pretending to offer help to struggling homeowners.
Since January 2012, more than 200 Ohioans told the attorney general they paid a “loan modification company” that took their money then disappeared.
Scams range from fake government programs to “bait and switch” — schemes that lure homeowners to sign over the rights to their homes.
Adding insult to injury, the legitimate services offering this help are absolutely free.
What to do:
Look for these red flags when approached by a foreclosure-prevention company: If a company guarantees a loan modification; if someone asks for a fee in advance; if someone tells you to pay the mortgage amount to him instead of your mortgage company.
To learn more about the scams and find legitimate and free services, visit LoanScamAlert.org. Local groups that can help with your very real mortgage problem include EANDC at 330-773-6838 and Neighborhood Development Services in Ravenna at 330-297-6400.
Predictably, the devastating tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma last month immediately were followed by warnings from the Better Business Bureau of Akron.
Con artists come out of the woodwork every time there’s a natural disaster, taking advantage of the generosity of people who are eager to help victims.
“We urge donors to take the time to make sure their donations are going to legitimate charities that can do the most good for those in need,” Art Taylor, head of the national BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance said in a recent news release.
What to do:
If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website. Don’t be swayed by Internet requests or social media posts. Well-meaning bloggers and other third-party recommendations might not have fully researched the relief organizations they list.
Visit www.bbb.org/charity to see if a charity or relief organization meets the BBB’s standards.
Also know that while gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations are well intentioned, they might not be the best way to assist. Be wary of requests from people not experienced in disaster relief assistance.
If you are suspicious of a charitable solicitation, you can report it to BBB Report a Scam https://cbbb.wufoo.com/forms/report-a-scam.