Attorney general warns public about several scams

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 at­tor­ney­gen­er­ ••

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