HOW TO AVOID COMMON SWINDLES AND CON GAMES
Most of us think we are the last people in the world who could be tricked into handing over our hard-earned money for deals that, in retrospect, are obviously phony but con artists today are experts in human psychology and behavior. They know how to win over your confidence with smooth talk and their self-assured manner. Unless you are careful, you may find yourself turning over cash or buying worthless merchandise. You won't be able to recognize a con artist by the way he or she looks, but you can be on the lookout for some of their "pitches."
Here are some good rules to follow all the time — whether or not you suspect a fraud:
- Don't believe "something-for-nothing" offers. You get what you pay for.
- Take your time. Think about the deal before you part with your money.
- Read all contracts and agreements before signing and for your own peace of mind, have an attorney examine all major contracts.
- Compare services, prices, and credit offers before agreeing to a deal. Ask friends what their experiences have been with the firm or service in question, or check with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org.
- Never turn over large sums of cash to anyone, especially a stranger, no matter how promising the deal looks.
- Do not hesitate to check the credentials of anyone who comes to your door. Ask to see official identification and inspect it carefully. If you are suspicious, ask the person for the name and telephone number of his or her supervisor, so you can call and check right away. A legitimate business or service representative will not hesitate to comply.
- Beware of individuals impersonating police officers who seek your assistance in "identifying fraudulent bank tellers" or "cracking a counterfeiting scheme." They will usually ask you to withdraw large sums of money as part of their "investigation." These people are not police officers, and all they want is your money.
- Report all suspicious offers immediately to the police, before the swindler leaves your neighborhood in search of other victims. If you've been victimized, don't be embarrassed about coming forward.
Don't Be a Victim of a Scam
Although anyone can become a victim of a scam, college students are particularly vulnerable. The best way to avoid being a victim of a flim-flam, scam, or other fraud is to be informed. Please read these examples, be aware, and protect yourself and your financial welfare by exercising good judgment and being skeptical when necessary.
Common Scams and How They Work:
The Lottery Scam
Congratulations you’ve just won a million dollars in a lottery you never entered...
This is one of the most common scams throughout the U.S. The approach is made via email, telephone, fax or letter. A good rule of thumb in these situations is to remember if it sounds too good to be true, IT IS! Don’t let your excitement get the best of you.
Here’s how it might happen:
- The suspect tells the victim that he just won the lottery. All he needs to do in order to collect the winnings is to wire them the money for taxes and the international conversion fees.
- The suspect requests that money be wired to a Western Union or MoneyGram location based out of the country, usually Canada, the United Kingdom or Nigeria.
The victim never sees any winnings.
Do not send the money. If you really win the lottery, the lottery association will arrange to take the money for the taxes directly out of your winnings.
Relative in Distress Scam
A caller contacts you on the telephone identifying himself or herself as your relative. He or she asks for financial assistance because he or she just got into a car accident in a nearby jurisdiction.
Here’s how it might happen:
- The suspect calls and says she/he needs money immediately. If they do not settle the accident right then and there, they will go to jail. If the victim agrees to help, the suspect will then send a friend to get the money at the victim’s house.
- The second suspect (the friend of the ‘relative’) shows up at the victim’s house to get the money. He has been told what names to use with the victim when picking the money.
- The victim finds out later that the relative never called and asked for the money.
What to do if approached in this manner:
- If the person asks for money, be sure to confirm that it’s really a relative – ask a question only that relative would know.
- Confirm with another relative that the relative named is in town.
- Go with your gut – if you don’t feel comfortable with the situation, say no and hang up the telephone.
Find the card and win the money...
Be warned, this card game is a scam. No matter what you think, the hand is quicker than the eye. The only time you win in this game is when the suspect lets you; and the only reason a suspect will let you is to fool you into thinking you can beat them and make some money.
Three-Card Monte is most often played with cards, but sometimes with shells. The ‘mark’ is supposed to find a particular card, or perhaps a pea hidden under a shell. If the victim does not select the right card or shell, he loses and must pay the suspect money.
Sometimes, people choose to partake in this game, thinking they may actually win money. Other times, a victim may be unwittingly roped into this scam.
Here’s how that might happen:
- A suspect asks for help finding a church. He tells the victim that he is from out of town, usually somewhere “down south,” to gain your trust. Somehow the suspect convinces the victim to give him a ride.
- When the victim and the first suspect get to the church, a second suspect joins the conversation. The second suspect may lead the victim to believe that he is affiliated with the church.
- The two suspects start talking about a card game. One of the suspects conveniently produces a deck and the two suspects start playing. The victim is then asked what he would do. As soon as he answers, he’s been sucked into the game.
The suspects then set up the victim by making him think he may have won some money. Then the tables turn and the victim is told that he owes the suspects money. The suspects may imply that they will harm the victim if he does not produce the money.
What to do if approached in this manner:
- Avoid the situation – give the suspect directions to the nearest church and let him walk there.
- If you can’t get away, look for a marked police unit and approach it or call 9-1-1. Get as much information as possible and give it to the police when you file your report.
Take a look at this U-Tube Video to learn more about the Three-Card Monte scam:
Badge Player Scam
A suspect posing as an undercover police officer needs your help capturing a bank employee who has been working with some area con artists. To do this, he needs you to remove a large sum of money from your account for fingerprinting. Once the fake officer has the money, he is never seen again.
This scam usually occurs to a victim who has already been scammed once. The new suspect is often working with the con artists from the earlier offense.
Here’s how it might happen:
- The suspect identifies himself as a police officer and shows the victim a fake badge.
- The fake police officer tells the victim that he has identified the suspects from the earlier case and that they are in custody.
- The fake police officer then tells the victim that a bank employee may have been working with the suspects in custody. To confirm this, the fake officer needs the victim withdraw money from a particular teller at that bank.
- The victim then gives his money to the fake officer for fingerprinting. The fake officer assures the victim that the police will return his money to his account, but the money is never returned.
What to do if approached:
- Know this – no real member of the police department should ever ask for money in connection with any case.
- This is a sure sign of a scam.
- Follow your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.
- Ask the individual to present his departmental issued picture ID.
- If you still do not feel comfortable, ask for a uniform officer to respond to the scene by calling
- If the suspects leave, get a license plate and call 9-1-1.
Did you know it is illegal for phone companies to change a consumer's telephone service without permission?
This practice is referred to as "slamming." Another telephone scam is "cramming": a consumer is billed for telephone services that were not used, ordered, or authorized. For more information on phone slams, crams, and scams, visit the Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Division website at www.fcc.gov
In addition to "slamming" and "cramming," a popular and recent phone scam currently circulating is the Area Code 809 Scam:
Here is how it might happen:
You may receive a message on your answering machine or via text to your cell phone which asks you to call a number beginning with area code 809 (or another unfamiliar area code). The reason that you're asked to call varies: it can be to receive information about a family member who has been ill, to tell you someone has been arrested or died, or to let you know you have won a wonderful prize.
In each case, the message tells you to call the 809 number immediately. Since there are so many new area codes these days, people unknowingly return these calls. If you call from the U.S., you will apparently be charged up to $25.00 per-minute. You may also get a long recorded message. The point is the scammers will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges. Unfortunately, when you get your phone bill, you may be charged hundreds of dollars for the minutes you accumulated making the call to area code 809.
How It Works:
The 809 area code is located in the British Virgin Islands (the Bahamas). The 809 area code may be used as a "pay-per-call" number, similar to 900 numbers in the U.S. Since 809 is not an area code in the U.S. it is not covered by U.S. regulations of 900 numbers. U.S. regulations require that you be notified and warned of charges and rates involved when you call a "pay-per-call" number. There is also no requirement that the company provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without being charged. Furthermore, whereas many U.S. phones have 900 number-blocking to avoid these kinds of charges, it will not prevent calls to the 809 area code.
How to Protect Yourself:
It is recommended that no matter how you get the message, if you are asked to call a number with an 809 area code that you don't recognize, investigate further or simply disregard the message. Be wary of email, texts or calls asking you to call an 809 area code number.
It's important to prevent becoming a victim of this scam; fighting the charges afterwards can become a nightmare. If you actually make the call and later complain, both your local phone company and your long distance carrier may not want to get involved. The phone companies will most likely tell you that they are simply providing the billing for the foreign company. You may end up dealing with a foreign company that argues they have done nothing wrong.
Should you become the victim of a theft by trick, con man or other theft by deception, contact your local police district or Manhattan DA’s office at http://manhattanda.org/investigation-division or you can also call the Crime Stoppers Number and give them as much information as you can at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or text TIP577 (you can also report a crime anonymously via the Crime Stoppers line)
If you choose to go to your local precinct, go to the precinct that covers the area where the crime occurred. If you don’t know the precinct, you can dial 3-1-1 to help you locate the correct precinct or you can find your precinct here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/precinct_maps/precinct_finder.shtml
When reporting a crime or incident, please be prepared to provide the following information:
- Your name (unless you wish to remain anonymous) and the phone number where you can be reached
- A description of what occurred, including date, time and location
- Number of suspects
- Information on the suspect/s: name (if you know it), a physical description and any other relevant details
- Last known location of suspects