The office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane this week issued warnings about a few scams that have been making the rounds. Again.
None of the following are particularly new, but con artists like to pitch the tried-and-true schemes. For them, if it works, they do it.
“A new twist to an old scam,” according to the AG, involves callers who say they are from her office and say they are collecting an unpaid payday loan or some other debt.
“The OAG would never initiate such a call,” the office said in a July 28 news release. “The caller will threaten that the consumer will be charged with theft by deception and arrested by local police if payment by credit card or electronic money transfer is not made within 24 hours.”
The AG’s office said such calls also are made by people who claim they are Internal Revenue Service representatives who want to collect unpaid taxes.
Another oldie involves sweepstakes. Victims are told they won big prizes, but can’t collect them until they send payments to cover processing fees and payments. Of course, the pitches are pure fiction. Anyone who pays that money is getting taken.
We live in a computer age, and who doesn’t have occasional issues with computer performance? Con artists play on that. According to Kane’s office, “claiming to be from well-known companies such as Microsoft, scammers contact consumers alleging they detected viruses or other malicious software on the consumer’s computer.”
The consumers get fooled into accepting the con artists are legit because they recite some so-called serial numbers that actually are little more than product codes associated with any computer using Microsoft or any other operating system. Thus conned, consumers turn over login and password information. Sometimes, they are asked for credit card information for payment for the “services rendered.”
Another scam popular with con men is the threat of an electric service shutoff if a bill isn’t paid. The Northeast Times frequently has reported on this con. Victims are told their electricity will be shut off within an hour if they don’t immediately buy debit cards for the amount due and call back with the cards’ numbers. Those cards are drained by the scammers. The paper has reported that this particular scam often targets people with Hispanic surnames and that the con artists conduct their scheme in Spanish.
So how do you counter the con men? Kane has some advice:
• Don’t give out any personal information or billing information over the phone;
• Never wire money or prepaid debit card information in response to a telephone appeal, even if that appeal comes from someone who claims to know you;
• Never give out sensitive information to anyone on the phone unless you initiated the call to a company you are certain is legitimate.
Consumers can file a complaint regarding these or other scams by calling the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s toll-free helpline number at 1-800-441-2555 or online at www.attorneygeneral.gov ••