Friday, January 20, 2012

Top Scams for 2011

Phishing Scams: The world is bombarded daily with phishing scams via email, Facebook, Twitter, and phone calls. Kansas City is no different. Last year the BBB's name was used in a phishing scam that attempted to obtain banking information from businesses.

Fake Collection Agencies: These companies that attempt to collect on debt that has already been paid off years before. Collecting on what was actually a real debt years before tends to confuse debtors, because they believe they may not have paid it all off. Overland Park is home  to Regent Asset Management/Imperial Recovery Partners, which was sued by the Colorado Attorney General's office.

Timeshare Resale: Kansas City is not unique in this one. Timeshare Resale companies claim to exist in every major city in the country. Many of them are different incarnations of the same group of con men. In 2011, there were at least five fake Timeshare Resale companies claiming to be in the Kansas City area. They stole anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 from victims.

Payday Loan Scams: Payday loans are difficult enough to deal with without fraud. Some overseas payday loan companies have made Kansas City their U.S. operation site. Their domestic "businesses" acquire people's bank account information, deposit $200 in accounts and then begin collecting hundreds of dollars per month. By depositing money into a person's account, it can throw off the scent to consumer protection agencies.Often people have no idea who the loan company is.

Weight Loss Scams:  Every time the FTC sues a company for false advertising concerning the "active" ingredients of a pill, a new one pops up. Right now a popular ingredient is capsaicin, a chemical found in cayenne. However, it doesn't do anything with doses that are possible to eat. That hasn't stopped weight loss companies from boasting about its power to accelerate weight loss. In 2009, and 2010, Acai berry product manufacturers claimed many of the same things with even less evidence. Next year will surely be something different. There ARE pharmaceuticals out there that plausibly cause weight loss. Unfortunately, they are difficult to differentiate from scam products. It's best to consult a doctor about it.

Foreign Sweepstakes: Foreign lotteries are illegal. All calls and mailings from international lotteries are scams, without exception. They all ask for money up front.

Charity Scams: Fake charities use people's generosity and good intentions to get personal information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and even social security numbers. Be sure to check out Search.BBB.org and Guidestar.org before donating.

Immigration Scams: These companies tell immigrants that they will help with obtaining, or guarantee, a green card or citizenship. They don't necessarily rely on their victim's inability to speak fluent English, but it helps. They scam Latinos, Canadians, Europeans or anyone who wants to become a citizen. They take money up front and do absolutely nothing. One of the local businesses, Immigration Forms and Publications, was recently shut down and its officers sentenced to prison on racketeering charges.

Jobs Scams: They can be found on Monster.com, Career Builder, independent web sites, mailings, print advertisements, and ESPECIALLY Craigslist. Various job scams exist. Some advertise government jobs and then ask up front fees to help the buyer find a job. The consumers are then mailed a packet of information about getting jobs. Some jobs scams claim people can work from home, but there isn't really a position. The scam asks for money to pay for materials necessary to do the job. Either nothing is sent or it isn't what they said it would be. Craigslist is different. Most of the time, scams found on Craigslist wipe out people's bank accounts, so it's already extreme. It's not the worst. In other instances, people responding to jobs ads on Craiglist have been robbed, beaten, raped and murdered. If looking for a job, make sure there is plenty of online information about the business. If the business attempts to withhold a single iota of information about the job or the business, never speak to them again.

Grant Scams: The government does not give away money for no reason. Applying for a grant can be a lengthy process and requires a detailed outline of the applicant's plans for the money. Grant scams call people and say the victim has been pre-selected to receive a grant, or the scam guarantees a grant, of many thousands of dollars. Sometimes the scam claims it is because the person is a "good citizen,." Sometimes the scams claim it's a small business grant. The victim is charged hundreds or thousands of dollars for one excuse or another. Bottom line: if anyone calls about a grant, it's a scam.

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