Scammers pose as disabled drivers to sell fake jewelry: Internet Scambusters #862
Scammers have come up with a novel and convincing way to fool car drivers into buying fake jewelry from them.
We'll explain how the scam works in this week's Snippets issue, along with a rundown of other scams involving the Do Not Call registry, cheap but non-existent child car seats, and all manner of tricks involving solar panels.
We also have an important link to a video from the Social Security Administration, with an example of a fake phone call and advice on how to spot a scam.
Let's get started...
Fake Jewelry and Money for Nothing
Scammers have come up with a neat idea, which merges together two other well-known tricks - claiming to be out of gas and trying to sell fake jewelry. And they've added another twist to tug on the heart strings by pretending to be disabled.
It's already happened in several parts of California and looks set to spread to other states.
These tricksters actually flag other cars down as they stand by their own vehicles, which have disabled hangers inside and maybe disabled stickers on the outside. They may also use props like canes or crutches to convince their victims.
They add to the pressure by claiming they suffered some kind of misfortune, like having their wallet stolen or that they're rushing to hospital.
But they just happen to have some jewelry with them, which they're prepared to trade in exchange for gas money. The items, which include necklaces, bracelets and rings, are stamped with 18K -- they may even have price tags on them -- and the scammer says he'll sell for a knockdown price.
In reality, the items are made of brass and are next to worthless. So watch out for this new breed of highway robbers and keep your money in your wallet.
Do Not Call Fee
Another old trick with a new twist is the phony fee scam - where crooks claim you need to pay them for a service that's actually free.
This time, they claim to either be from the Do Not Call Registry or they offer to preregister you. Either way, you're expected to pay a fee.
Since registration is free, it's bad enough that someone says you have to pay. In fact, it's illegal for any private company or third party to register someone else.
But, even worse, the scammers will likely ask you for credit card details and maybe some other confidential information, so they could be lining you up for identity theft.
Everyone should be on the Do Not Call Registry, which stops legitimate telesales people from calling you. Of course, it doesn't stop scammers since they ignore names on the registry!
If you're not already registered, visit donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222
Car Seat Scam
Paying for something that's free is bad enough. But it's ever worse when you pay for something you never get - which is actually one of the most common Internet scams.
The fact that many of them are easily spotted because they offer goods at unbelievably low prices doesn't seem to deter either the scammers or their victims.
In the latest example, crooks have been targeting parents, or expectant parents, on the lookout for a good value car seat.
Often, potential victims give themselves away by talking online about the new or impending additions to their families, which makes them an easy mark for scammers who monitor this sort of information. Data firms also sell information about new parents, which can fall into the wrong hands.
Then car seat ads start popping up on expectant parents' social media pages such as on Facebook offering top-branded seats at about 20% off the regular price. Often, the ads lead to a secure website that also carries lots of supposed testimonials from satisfied customers.
Unfortunately, as we recently reported, secure sites that show a padlock and use "https" in the address bar can no longer be guaranteed to be genuine. Crooks are using them too. And, of course, the testimonials are fake.
If you do a search on the advertiser's name first, you'll almost certainly discover that others have been scammed, so you can skip the come-on. Plus, remember the old saying that if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
Solar Sense and Nonsense
Another trick that aims to relieve you of your money with nothing in return exploits the growing popularity of solar panels.
Often with tax and other incentives to encourage you to buy, including the possibility of selling electricity back to your power company, installing solar panels can make financial as well as ecological sense.
But the math is complicated and it's easy for salespeople to bamboozle potential customers into buying when, perhaps, it doesn't really make sense.
But that's only the half of it. Scammers, sometimes claiming to be from the Department of Energy, are now cashing in on this market by taking huge deposits and then simply failing to deliver.
In other cases, they supply low-quality panels that may not be capable of actually doing the job they were bought for. Then another scammer (possibly connected with the original one) calls to offer victims an upgrade or an extended warranty, both of which may also be nonsensical or non-existent.
If you're considering investing in solar technology, make sure you do your homework first so you know how the system works and at least get a handle on the numbers. Then seek bids from two or more reputable companies and resist any attempt to pressure you into immediately putting down a big deposit. Also, make sure you read any terms and conditions, including the small print, before you commit.
To learn more about solar panel fraud or how to choose a system, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)'s article: Solar Power for Your Home.
Alert of the Week
Social Security scams are among the fastest growing crimes in the U.S. right now. They mainly involve imposters claiming to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and either demand money or ask for your Social Security number.
The SSA has just posted a new video with an example of a scam call and advice on how to respond.
Time to close today, but we'll be back next week with another issue. See you then!