Columbus, OH – Each year, one in four North American households are scammed. Because money loss and identity theft can happen to anyone, BBB encourages community members to protect and inform others by reporting any scam-related experiences to BBB’s Scam Tracker.
In July, Central Ohio consumers reported losing a total of $49,208 to scams.
BBB analyzed Scam Tracker reports from July 2017 to shed a spotlight on four scams affecting our Central Ohio community:
1. Sweepstakes Scam: A 78 year old man from West Liberty, Ohio was told he won 6.5 million dollars, but had to first pay fees in order to receive the money. He paid $48,250 total through two separate bank checks. The scammers used multiple callers claiming to be from various government agencies to collect his payments, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and U.S. Customs. His bank and postal clerk both advised him to not send the money, but he wanted the winnings to help with his wife’s medical expenses.
A Whitehall woman also reported that her 79-year-old mother repeatedly receives calls from a person calling himself Ricardo Washington telling her she has won a truck, but needs to pay $475 to get it. The calls are coming from a Lifeline phone, so they are unable to block his number.
If you have been told that you won a sweepstakes, you should not have to pay any money in order to claim your prize. This includes taxes, shipping and handling charges or any other types of fees. Remember that you also have to play to win. If you have been notified that you won a contest you never entered, then that is a red flag. Real sweepstakes will also not contact you via text or bulk mail. They would not send you a check in the mail without first contacting you, and will not give you a time limit to claim your prize.
2. Government Grant Scam: A woman from Columbus, Ohio reported that her mother bought a $250 iTunes gift card for a $5,900 government grant. The scammers claimed the grant would be wired to her from Western Union after she sent them the gift card, but when she went to Western Union, they did not have the grant money for her.
BBB wants consumers to know that The United States Government will not contact anyone directly for loans, or require that you pay any sort of fee to receive loans. If you receive a call stating you qualify for a government loan, simply hang up. Be wary of anyone asking for payment in the form of gift cards or prepaid money cards, as they are most likely a scammer.
3. Tech Support Scam: A Coshocton County senior citizen reported buying computer protection from a company calling themselves Embridge Technology in March. BBB believes he may have gotten an unsolicited phone call or pop-up on his computer screen that initiated the conversation. In July, the “company” called him back, claimed they had lost their license, and wanted to refund him the money. They asked for control of his computer and his account information so they could deposit $3,000. Then they claimed that they overpaid the refund amount and asked the consumer to purchase iTunes gift cards with the extra money and provide the PIN numbers to them to make up for the difference. He read them $950 worth of gift cards before realizing he was being scammed. The scammers did still have control of his computer, and he is now unable to turn it on.
A large tech company will most likely not call consumers who did not request a call previously. A trustworthy business or organization will also not overpay you an amount of money and ask for you to wire funds back or purchase gift cards. Furthermore, be wary of anyone calling and asking to take control of your computer. If you do not personally know and trust this person, then you should not let them have access to your machine and private information.
4. BBB Imposter Scam: A Columbus millennial received a phone call from a person claiming to be Officer James King. He said he was with Better Business Bureau and investigating a prize check. The consumer had received a check from Pacific Integrated a couple of months before and thought it could be in regards to that. He told her “There are a lot of bad people out there, but you still have a right to a prize,” and got defensive and unpleasant when she asked if she could confirm his employment with BBB, impatiently telling her he was not going to play games with her.
If you receive a call from a BBB staff member, search for your local BBB and call asking for verification that the caller works for Better Business Bureau. BBB is a nonprofit, not a government agency, and will not have anyone with the title of “Officer” making calls on behalf of BBB or asking for personal information.