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Tag Archive | "fraud"

“After the Disaster” consumer alert 


 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recognized the start of Severe Weather Awareness Week this week by releasing a new “After the Disaster” consumer alert providing Michigan residents with tips to avoid be scammed after a severe weather event.

“While most business and charities act with the utmost professionalism and ethics, there are some bad apples who chose to take advantage of another’s misfortune,” said Schuette. “I urge residents to look at this consumer alert before severe weather strikes.”

SPOT IT: Post-disaster scams

  • Price Gouging – Basic goods and services are top priorities after disaster strikes: the demand for certain services increases and scammers take advantage.
  • Scammers attracted by FEMA payments – Scammers swarm to weather disasters to take advantage of otherwise careful consumers who have FEMA money for repairs and want to act quickly to avoid further problems like mold or rot.
  • Emergency home repairs – Home repair and disaster cleanup scams can be avoided if you know what to look for and take your time before you hire anyone.
  • Government Imposters – Criminals use everything from legitimate government references and threats of government action, to promises of government assistance to trick disaster victims.
  • Sudden business closures – If a business suddenly closes that you have dealings with, act quickly to stop any further charges or any scheduled payments by your bank or card company.
  • Flood-damaged vehicles – Flood-damaged cars can be shipped across the country to a car lot in your neighborhood just days after a flood. Many flood-damaged cars appear for sale on the internet or at car lots far away from the disaster without any mention or obvious signs of the damage.
  • Disaster relief charity scams — Scam artists see disaster tragedies as opportunities to enrich themselves.

STOP IT: How to avoid being scammed

  • Check credentials: Michigan law requires a Residential Builder license for any project costing $600 or more.
  • FEMA inspectors verify damages, but they do not involve themselves in any repair, and they do not “certify” any contractor.
  • Weather disasters and other unpredictable conditions can trigger suddenly higher prices. File a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division if you suspect price gouging.
  • Don’t put your hard-earned money into a flood-damaged lemon: inspect vehicles closely or take it to an independent mechanic to inspect.

Report Fraud

If you have been the victim of a disaster-related scam, or if you would like to file a general consumer complaint, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division:

Consumer Protection Division P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909. Phone: 517-373-1140 Fax: 517-241-3771 Toll free: 877-765-8388. Online complaint form: https://secure.ag.state.mi.us/complaints/consumer.aspx

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Renters and sellers beware of scammers 


N-Rental-scam-real_estate_signs

By Judy Reed

If you are trying to sell your home, don’t be surprised if someone comes knocking at your door and asks if it’s for rent. Or, if you’ve already moved out and are still trying to sell it, you might come by to find someone living there. That’s because scammers are stealing house for sale listings and putting them up on Craigslist as rentals.

Local realtor Brynadette Powell, with Arthur K. Eggerding Realty, said this happened to a home she had listed recently on Hoskins. “The lady of the house was home sick, and she had four people come to the door in two days asking if it was for rent,” she explained. She said the next day she was in a broker class and received three messages saying the home was listed on Craigslist to rent for $1200 a month.

“I sent the info to Craigslist and they took it down in about two hours,” said Powell.

Powell said she emailed the poster of the ad, pretending she was interested. She asked who they were, and they emailed back a form letter saying that they had recently settled in Nigeria, and sent her an application. She was told to send them the first month’s rent and a security deposit and she could move in.

Powell said that sometimes the listers tell people that they moved and forgot to leave a key, and that they can just break in.

“I also just recently had a buyer for another agent’s house, and that listing was also hijacked. There were people trying to break into the house because they thought they had a lease,” she explained.

Powell said that one agent she knows called the police about it. “The agent was told that the people who sent the money had a crime against them, but not the owners,” she said.

It’s possible that people get embarrassed and don’t want to report it, however, or they don’t realize they can. According to the fraud division at the Kent County Sheriff Department, there haven’t been any reports in our area recently, but they are aware of the problem, because it has been around awhile.

Powell said she now tries to avert this type of problem by putting a sign on the door that says, “This house is not for rent.”

Powell said part of the problem is that there are not enough rentals out there to meet demand, especially in Cedar Springs. “Cedar Springs is amazing in regards to people sticking around. There just aren’t enough rentals out there,” she explained.

Phil Catlett, of the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, is also aware of the problem. “Scammers look on Craig’s List, or M-Live, or a Real Estate website, and find homes for sale. The scammer creates an ad listing the property for rent. Every year we learn of someone getting ripped off this way,” he said.

Catlett supplied the following info from the BBB:

Researchers reviewed more than 2 million for-rent posts and found 29,000 fake listings in 20 major cities. Of those, there were three key types of scams. In the first, a fake post instructs a would-be tenant to purchase a credit report. The scammer gets a commission from the credit reporting site, even though there is no property for rent.

In another scheme, con artists duplicate rental listings from other sites and post on Craigslist at a lower price. Prospective renters pay a deposit via wire transfer. Another pervasive scam is “realtor service” companies. Targets are asked to pay fees to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties. In the majority of cases, the companies leading the scams have no connection to the properties listed.

How to Spot a Rental Scam:

  • Don’t wire money or use a prepaid debit card: You should never pay a security deposit or first month’s rent by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. These payments are the same as sending cash – once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
  • Watch out for deals that sound too good: Scammers lure in targets by promising low rents, great amenities and other perks. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.
  • See the property in person: Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised.
  • Don’t fall for the overseas landlord story: Scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
  • Search for the same ad in other cities: Search for the listing online. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.

For More Information

Read the full report from New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering on rental scams on Craigslist. The report is the first systematic study of online rental scams. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/renter-beware-study-finds-craigslist-catches-barely-half-of-scam-rental-listings-300228037.html.

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10 tips to safely sell a car online


CAR-Ten-tips

(BPT) – Looking for a new set of wheels? Need to raise some cash for a home improvement project? Heading back to college?

Last year, a whopping 42.5 million used cars were sold in the United States, many by private owners. And 94 percent of those transactions involved an online search, according to leading online car website CarSoup.com.

While the Internet has made it easier than ever to buy a used car directly from a private party, buyers and sellers need to take precautions to ensure their safety and to prevent fraud.

The new e-book, “How to Safely Sell Your Car,” available on Amazon as well as through CarSoup.com, offers a number of specific tips on how to safely sell your car online, as well as suggestions on selling your car faster and for top dollar.

“Thousands of people safely sell their cars online every day, and you can too,” says Brian Bowman, chief technology officer of CarSoup.com. “Selling safely is the best way to make the most money and ensure a great sales experience for you and your buyer. The key is trust. The more trust you can build, the more satisfaction both parties will experience with the transaction.”

To sell your car safely and quickly online, Bowman offers these tips:

1. Go where the serious car buyers are. Avoid rummage-style websites and advertise your car on well-known, trusted websites that appeal to serious auto shoppers. For example, 54 percent of the active shoppers on a dedicated auto website like CarSoup.com buy a vehicle within 90 days.

2. VIN numbers reduce risk. Advertise your car with dedicated auto shopping websites that require a vehicle identification number (VIN). These websites help prevent fraud by matching the VIN numbers of cars advertised on their websites with public records to spot cars that have been reported stolen or cannot be legally sold.

3. Write an honest ad. The secret to preparing a great online ad, says Julie Spira, America’s cyber-dating expert, whose online advice is featured in the book, How to Safely Sell Your Car, is to clearly state what’s in it for the buyer and why you’re selling. Like online dating ads, Spira says, use lots of photos, add a heart-warming or funny story, and be honest to avoid surprises.

4. Ask lots of questions. Ask the buyer lots of questions, both by email and phone. Carefully listen to find out if your car will help fulfill their needs. Listen for evasive answers to questions about the buyer’s current driver’s license and auto insurance. Do a quick online search for the buyer’s name and location to check for any legal problems.

5. Don’t get too personal. When talking to a potential buyer, avoid revealing your address and other personal details. Don’t post photos of yourself with your car, or photos that show your home or valuable contents in your garage.

6. Get your paperwork ready. Have all of your paperwork (title, bank lien, driver’s license, car insurance, etc.) in order before meeting a buyer to finalize the sale. Tell the buyer to bring a current license and proof of auto insurance.

7. Meet in a public spot. Suggest meeting in a neutral public spot, during the daytime, to make you both feel safer. Invite a friend along and let the buyer know this ahead of time. If the buyer doesn’t have, or won’t let you review, their driver’s license and auto insurance card for the test drive, skip it. There will be plenty of other buyers, but there is only one you.

8. Remove personal items. When you clean your car for the test drive, clear out all valuables, including items in the trunk. Do not leave your wallet or smartphone in the vehicle.

9. State, up front, the test-drive route. Clearly state the test drive route and allotted time you have before getting into the car with the buyer. Sit in the backseat of the car to make the front of the car feel less crowded for the buyer during the test drive.

10. Complete the sale at the DMV. The sale of your car is not complete until you transfer the title of your car to the new owner, says Bowman. If a buyer takes possession of your car before the title is legally transferred, you will be held liable in the event that the buyer gets into an accident.

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Fraudulent websites posing as green dot moneypak customer support


 

The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received numerous complaints reporting fraudulent websites posing as MoneyPak customer support. MoneyPak is a non-reloadable, prepaid product offered by Green Dot.

Complaints indicate victims locate the websites via internet search engines. Interaction between the victims and the fraudulent customer support generally occurs via telephone. The IC3 has noticed different variations of this scam.

One: The victim is seeking a refund from an already purchased MoneyPak card and contacts the information listed on the website. A customer service “representative” will ask the caller to provide the identification number of the prepaid card.

For example:  The victim loaded funds onto a MoneyPak card and now wishes to receive a refund of those funds off of the prepaid card. The representative will ask for the prepaid card number and a credit card or checking account number to which the refund can be processed. At this point, the scammer has access to the funds on the prepaid card and the victim’s personal account.

Two: Victim seeks support in connection with loss from other possible scams. The representative will instruct the caller to reload the card with additional funds equal to the previously lost amount.

For example: The victim lost $500 from their MoneyPak card to a separate scam and is seeking a refund to the card. The representative will instruct the victim to load an additional $500 to the card. The representative states “reloading is the only way to process the refund,” and the card will be refunded the full $1,000. Should the victim refuse to reload the card, the representative will promptly disconnect the call.

In most complaints, victims are given a tracking or confirmation number in connection with their call and report to be placed on hold for a length of time while the representative claims to be researching the problem regarding the card in question. In all complaints, any funds available on the card are drained while the victim is on hold or immediately after the call is disconnected.

Consumer protection

Consumers should only use the website and phone number listed on the back of the MoneyPak prepaid cards. MoneyPak customer support can only be accessed by email request via the website’s online portal. The phone number listed on the back of MoneyPak cards is for adding funds to an existing prepaid card. Green Dot customer service publicizes a customer service number; however, this number will not provide assistance with MoneyPak.

Currently identified fraudulent websites are not secured websites (http).The MoneyPak customer support website is a secured website (https) and does not require personal (date of birth, social security number) to reload a card, add money to PayPal or make payments to authorized partners. Prepaid card information is needed to reload a prepaid card on the valid MoneyPak website. Visit https://www.moneypak.com/ for more information.

Filing a complaint

Individuals who believe they be a victim of a “MoneyPak Support” scam can file with the IC3 at http://www.ic3.gov. Please be as descriptive as possible, including prepaid card/account numbers affected and contact information of support “representatives.”

Because scams and fraudulent websites appear very quickly, individuals are encouraged to report possible internet scams and fraudulent websites by filing a complaint with the IC3 at http://www.ic3.gov.

Additional information from moneypak.1

Tips on how to protect yourself from fraud:2

  • Never give your MoneyPak number to someone you don’t know.
  • Never give receipt information about your MoneyPak purchase to another party.
  • Use your MoneyPak only to reload your prepaid cards or accounts you control.
  • Refuse any offer that asks you to buy a MoneyPak and share the number or receipt information by email or phone.
  • To use your MoneyPak with PayPal or eBay or other online merchants, transfer the money to your PayPal account before you pay the merchant. Don’t email your MoneyPak number directly to any merchant.
  • Unless it’s an approved MoneyPak partner, don’t use MoneyPak for any offer that requires you to pay before you get the item.

1. www.moneypak.com

2. www.moneypak.com/ProtectYourMoney.aspx 

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Avoiding air bag fraud


It’s a good idea to check any used car for properly functioning air bags.

It’s a good idea to check any used car for properly functioning air bags.

(NAPS)—The next time you’re thinking of buying a used car, remember, what you don’t see can hurt you.

We’re talking about air bags. Be sure they’re present and working properly.

As many as 250,000 counterfeit air bags may have been used to replace deployed ones, according to the federal government. But that’s not all.

Air bag fraud also can involve:

• Stuffing things in the air bag compartment (newspaper, packing peanuts)

• Air bags found in junkyards

• Stolen air bags

• No air bags at all.

What To Do

Start by simply turning the ignition. If the air bag indicator doesn’t come on at all or stays on, there may be a problem.

Also, check Carfax for reported accidents and air bag deployments, and get a mechanic’s inspection.

Learn More

For further facts and reports, visit www.carfax.com.

 

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BBB New Year’s Resolutions for 2012


This week a security company’s computer was hacked and money stolen from many customer accounts.  It’s more important than ever to resolve to be a savvy internet user and wise consumer. Your Better Business Bureau offers the following New Year’s resolutions to become a safer and wiser consumer in 2012:

1.    Fight identity theft. Always shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely.  Don’t provide your social security number, credit card number, debit card pin, bank account information, or your driver’s license number to anyone on the phone unless you are certain they represent a legitimate business.  Don’t leave financial information in your mailbox that might be accessed by identity thieves.
2.    Keep criminals from stealing information on your computer and online.  Every password and every computer can be hacked with enough time and effort. Purchase virus software and keep it updated.  Don’t click through to links or websites you are unsure of.  The more difficult you make it for someone to get your password, the better.  Use at least 8 characters in your password, only do business online with reputable organizations on secure (https) websites.  Don’t use the same password on different important online accounts.
3.    Beware of job offers to make easy money. Scammers are targeting job hunters, so beware of offers, work-at-home schemes or business opportunities promising big money for little work and no experience.
4.    Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scammers request that you wire money back to them. Scammers know tracking money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is extremely difficult. Even more troubling, it’s nearly impossible to get your money back.
5.    Fight fake check fraud. Educate yourself on the common types of check fraud and be wary of checks that come with claims you’ve won the lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a secret shopper.
6.    Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a business’ word for it. Get agreements in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between your expectations and what the business delivers.
7.    Look for the BBB seal and always check businesses out before buying. 400,000 businesses meet the BBB’s Standards for Trust and bear the BBB Accreditation Seal.   Your BBB doesn’t just report on Accredited Businesses, you can access BBB Business Reviews for nearly 4 million businesses by visiting www.bbb.org or calling (616)774-8230 or toll free (800)684-3222.
8.    Ask your BBB for help. File a complaint with your BBB if you have a disagreement with a business or been ripped off by a scammer.  The BBB will contact the business and ask for their explanation of the issue.  Often, the BBB can assist in reaching a resolution.

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