Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Almost weekly, news reports tell of area folks who are victims of fraud and scams. The most targeted demographic, says Summerville Police Department Cpt. Jon Rogers, PIO, is the older generation.
A recent scam is a telephone call telling the recipient that a family member, often a grandchild, has been kidnapped or is in jail and if they want to save the person’s life, or get them out of jail, they need to bring an amount of money to a specific address, etc.
Unfortunately, many believe and bring the money. Of course, there has been no kidnapping or arrest.
Rogers says the first thing the person receiving the call needs to do is call someone, even the individual supposedly kidnapped, to verify.
“Call other family members,” says Rogers. “Communicate independently [of the original phone call].”Find out the name of the jail. Then get the phone number of the jail [from a source other than the caller] and call the jail directly and ask if the relative has been arrested.”
Another scam is emails and phone calls purportedly from a bank or credit card company.
“A bank or credit card company is never going to call someone to verify names, addresses, social security numbers or account numbers,” says Rogers. “Never.”
If you receive an email, do not click on the link. Call the bank using the number on your statement or on the banks home page that has been accessed in a new Internet window. Contact the credit card company using the number on the back of the credit card. Never call a number given over the phone.
“Hang up from the phone caller and make your own calls, independently,” says Rogers.
There are always a plethora of home repair scams, especially after severe storms or hurricanes, says Rogers.
“First of all, do not pay until the work is done,” says Rogers.
To protect yourself against shoddy work, people should do the following, he says:
get quotes from more than one contractorask to see their business licenseget referencesThe types of home repair scams historically perpetrated include driveway sealing and roof repairs. A new law has just been passed making it illegal for contractors to be paid up front for roof repairs.
Further, now, if you enter into a contract with a residential roofer, you have the power to cancel it within five days.
Nor are contractors, under the new law, which went into effect on July 1, are not allowed to handle the insurance claim on your behalf.
Rogers says anyone hiring someone should vet them first. “Compare prices…if it looks too good to be true it usually is,” he says.
“For example, anyone saying they can install an irrigation system for $1,000 is scamming you.”
Then, says Rogers, there are the scams online on sites such as Craig’s List, Ebay and other auction sites.
“People are putting something up for sale,” he explained, “like a car, for example. Someone wants to buy the car so they come, hand you a check for more than the asking price and ask you to send the overpayment to them at a certain address. Then they drive away with the car.”
“The checks are counterfeit,” says Rogers. “Now you have no money and no car.”
Or, he says, if the bank cashes the check and then discovers it is counterfeit, it will come after you to get their money back and on criminal charges.
Rogers tells of a case where a young local girl was doing a lot of swaps online only to eventually discover that the items she received in exchange, were counterfeit.
“Kids do swaps online, without parental knowledge,” he says, “and they are really setting themselves up.”
Online purchases…read the fine print, he says. “If the price is good, you may be buying an empty box. Read the ratings, read the reviews, to start.”
Of course, anyone can rate and write reviews, including the scammer.
Rogers, however, is mostly referring to a scam that’s not actually a scam. In the fine print it will say that what is for sale is the box but the big print implies you are buying the item. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.