5 On Your Side

Popular Scams to Guard Against

Posted September 24, 2007

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— There is a good chance you will be the target of an e-mail scam this week. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that Americans are swindled out of $80 billion a year.

Maggie McAlvanah said she was scammed by a contractor while having her kitchen remodeled. The contractor just stopped showing up.

"For many, many, many, many months, while we were trying to get in touch with him and had lawyers write letters, we wrote letters. And then, finally found out the man was in bankruptcy,” said McAlvanah.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus said the most complaints filed last year were against home contractors. A big reason consumers lose money to contractors is because they don't do the research before hiring someone.

"Always get three estimates from contractors. And never do business with somebody who comes to your door unsolicited, or has a high-pressure sales pitch, or is offering a deal that is too good to be true,” said Kim Kleman with Consumer Reports.

There is a popular scam making the rounds that you should be on the look out for. It involves getting checks in the mail that look like you won money. All you have to do is send back a payment to cover taxes. The catch is the checks are not real.

"The check bounces, and the scammer runs off with your so-called taxes,” said Kleman.

So if you get a check for winnings, even though you never played the game, throw it away. If you deposit it, you will have to pay back the bank when the check is returned as fake.

You should also watch out for e-mails that look like they are from your bank, or some other business you know, and even from the Internal Revenue Service. They too, are fake and sent by schemers trying to steal Social Security and credit card numbers. Reputable companies and agencies warn they do not initiate contact through e-mail.

Another racket is the wrong-number scam. Someone calls your answering machine saying the are looking for someone else. They mention a stock that will make a lot of money. You call the person back hoping to take advantage of the stock tip you think was left for someone else.

The scam is complicated, but once promoters have you on board they push up the price of thinly traded stock, which they sell to you when it's high. The bottom drops out, and you are left holding worthless stock.

The Securities and Exchange Commission estimates investors lose $6 billion annually from the wrong-number scam.

The Federal Trade Commission reports the top scam these days is identity theft. A way to protect yourself is to review your credit reports. Federal law entitles everyone to a free copy, once a year, from each of the three credit bureaus.

10 Comments

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  • Trixie Sep 26, 2007

    no.ral.old guy - Yeah, Republicans have NEVER scammed the public . . . what color is the sky in your world?

  • no.ral.old guy Sep 26, 2007

    Clean up , your party is the party of scammers
    I did not inhale
    I did not have sex with that woman
    Gen Patreaus is lying (said before they heard the report)
    I voted for that legislation before i voted against it.
    On and On and On ......

  • rperry Sep 26, 2007

    Do not throw these checks away. "Shred them!" There is such thing called "Dumpster Diving"

  • tracya3904 Sep 25, 2007

    Cleanup, I agree to that one!!

  • Cleanup on Aisle Cool Sep 25, 2007

    We've all been scammed for $80 billion...

    It's called THE IRAQ WAR.

  • DLG Sep 25, 2007

    I just had an email like that today. I did not open it though. It was for backgammon and I don't even play backgammon. I deleted immediately.

  • Rabid_Wolf_2 Sep 25, 2007

    Anytime there is a link in your e-mail, move the mouse over it and you can see where the link goes on the bottom of your browser. You can always tell if it is being mis directed, or right click the link and go to properties.

  • brassy Sep 25, 2007

    People actually fall for this stuff?

  • imyourhuckleberry Sep 24, 2007

    I used to get emails from the ebay site, and the emails actually look like they were from them. Never click on a link from anyone and enter your personal information. Just log into the website from your browser. AND one other think I came across, be careful of transposed letters and typing in the wrong name - and the site still looks similar to the website you were looking for. I bookmark mine once I get them, then I don't have to worry about it!

    The contractor thing is also a no brainer - never pay anyone for unfinished work. If someone says they need money for materials, ask them where they want to go to pick them up and you will go with them. At least you will have the materials if they stop showing up. Three estimates are good.

    As for the stock market thing, good luck with that. If you call a wrong number message back, you have more time than I do, and if you listen to telemarketers, god bless you.

  • mrtwinturbo Sep 24, 2007

    Some people can be so stupid....I have and never will open emails from people I do not know...its the same as getting junk mail at your front door.....