ScamLines 1: What’s New in Scams?

ScamLines Scam Alert

9 new scams in the news: Internet ScamBusters #276

Every week here at, we get scores of reports of scams that have cost their victims millions of dollars or caused untold misery by robbing people of everything from their personal financial details to their kidneys (the kidneys are a joke).

So, we decided to try something new and get your feedback. We’re calling it “ScamLines: What’s New?” ScamLines brings you the headline details of the latest cons.

In many cases, they are new variations of long-running scams. Some of them are ingenious. By knowing about these tricks you can help protect yourself and others from falling victims to the scammers.

ScamBuster Keith suggested and wrote most of this first issue of ScamLines and, if you like it, we’ll add a link to each new issue of ScamLines in ScamBusters. That way, subscribers who appreciate ScamLines can stay up-to-date without making our regular ScamBusters issues too long.

By the way, as part of ScamLines, we’ll include international stories in the news as we find them (especially for our international subscribers).

On to ScamLines…

ScamLines 1: What’s New in Scams?

Here’s the current round-up of nine scams in the news… Although these scams are occurring in specific places, each of them can happen anywhere (so you aren’t safe just because you don’t live in Sioux Falls, SD, or New Zealand, etc.) And, just because a scam is on CraigsList, doesn’t mean it can’t — or won’t — happen on other sites.

1. Say No to *72

The scam: A terrible phone call to a Sioux Falls, SD, man tells him of a death in the family, asks him to call another number for details and to begin his cell phone call with the code *72. What this actually does is transfer all calls sent to the cell phone to the number the caller has given — the scammer’s own number.

The scammer then gives your number to his buddies anywhere in the world and they can phone him via your cell, with you picking up the charges — and knowing nothing about it — until you get your bill.

The solution: Don’t use the *72 or any other forwarding code to forward calls to a number you don’t know or recognize. You can enter *73 to clear call forwarding. (We’re not sure if *72 and *73 are the forwarding codes for all cell phones. Check your cell phone manual or talk to your carrier.)

2. The Not Guilty Juror

The scam: A new statewide warning in Utah this month of a familiar trick where individuals get calls telling them they failed to turn up for jury duty and asking for personal details so the court can cancel an arrest warrant. Meanwhile, in Winston County, MS, scammers claim they are calling from the courts merely to confirm personal details for possible future jury duty.

The solution: Don’t give personal details like credit card or Social Security numbers — courts never seek them over the phone. If in doubt, contact the court directly. And report the incident to the police.

You can find out more about how the jury duty scam works at Brand New Jury Duty Scam.

3. Don’t Pay The Hitman

The scam: A rash of death-threat emails has victims in Grand Forks, ND, trembling in their shoes. The messages warn of a $650,000 contract killing — and you’re the target. Unless you pay the hitman $15,000. They say you’re being watched (so you can’t contact the police) and give you 24 hours to make contact.

The solution: Let’s be serious. Are you really worth $650,000 dead? And if you are, why would the hitman take $15,0000 instead of collecting his fee? Tell the police.

Learn more about hitman scams at Hitman Emails : Scams or Urban Legends?

4. Pure Water Pressure

The scam: In Garland, TX, a couple of swindlers posing as water company officials invite themselves into private homes to check out the water supply and fixtures. They tell victims they need to buy water purifiers, which the scammers, of course, just happen to have in stock, and then press for an instant purchase.

The solution: Water company officials carry photo ID — check it out carefully — and use only official vehicles. If in doubt, phone the water company. And don’t let people pressure you into making purchases with high pressure sales tactics.

5. Hooked By the Text Phishers

The scam: Instead of sending you a phishing email, scammers send you a cell phone text message, supposedly from your bank, asking you to visit a website whose address looks genuine. It isn’t, and once keyed in, takes you to a bogus site that asks for personal details so the bank can “unlock” or “verify” your account. Currently making the rounds in Columbia, MO.

Solution: As with phishing emails, never follow a link, even one you have to manually key in, that you don’t know for sure. And never provide confidential information unless you know the site is secure — with an “s” in the “https” part of the address line and/or a padlock icon in the message area of your browser.

6. Cashing In On Tragedy

The scam: A sad story and a timely warning from the ever-popular classified ad site CraigsList. A guy raising money for a terminally ill parent tries to sell furniture and gets a reply offering to buy.

The “buyer” later says she’s sent a check but it was for too much money — so would the seller mind cashing it and sending back the difference? A wicked variation on the overpayment scam.

Solution: Never accept a check for more than the asking price and then give a refund. The original check usually bounces and you end up holding the bag.

You can read more about overpayment scams at Classic Overpayment Scams and New Deceptive Twists.

7. Getting Tourists in a Flap

The scam: Traders in London offer “rare” parrots for sale to tourists and locals, charging up to 170 British pounds ($350 USD) a time and often claiming the “parrots” can talk.

The birds are also advertised for sale in newspapers. They are actually parakeets that live wild in the English capital’s city parks.

Apart from the sheer cruelty of capturing them, they’re worth next to nothing — there’s an estimated 65,000 of them! They can’t talk either and, sadly, most of them die a short while after being caged.

The solution: Never accept people’s claims about items they’re selling without proof. And always beware of scammers in tourist locations — they know all the tricks in the book.

You can find details of more travel scams at:

Travel Scams: 10 Tips to Avoid Getting Taken

Travel Scams — Here, There and Everywhere

Summer Travelers: Avoid These Common Travel Scams

8. Scam and Scam Again

The scam: New Zealand victims of an earlier scam in which they were sold virtually worthless stocks get a phone call from someone saying they have a potential buyer or offering to swap them for more valuable stocks. Inevitably, the caller then asks for an advance commission, transaction or other registration fee.

A variation is that the caller claims to be an attorney who knows your case and wants to help you recover your money — again for an upfront fee.

The solution: Never buy shares over the phone (or promoted in emails) from someone you don’t know. If you already have, don’t believe anyone who says they can get your money back — unless it’s (really) the police! And, beware of “hot” stock tips.

Read more about avoiding “hot” stock tips at Are “Hot” Stock Tips Really Hot?

9. Busted!

John Heath, 81, recently got 28 years in jail for a scam that netted an estimated $190 million. Heath was one of a trio who ran a Ponzi investment scheme — a pyramid system where newly invested cash goes to pay off longer-standing investors, keeping them sweet, while a chunk drops into the scammers’ pockets.

California prosecutors said the scheme covered about half of the US and caught about 1,800 victims. Some money has been returned but only about 22 cents on the dollar.

Also Look Out For These Scams…

Scammers claiming they need your details for a new Medicare card… bogus shipping companies you’re asked to pay before shipping an item previously ordered by a con artist… phony talent agencies who tell you you’re heading for stardom, offer to put up $1,000 of their own money and ask for $500 of your cash to invest in your future… and a bogus cop who phones to say you’ve been photographed breaking the speed limit and asks you to forward a $150 fine.

Remember, be suspicious, be cautious and be safe!

Time to close — we’re off to take a walk. See you next week.