Gone Fishing? Not With These Scams!

Fishing and hunting enthusiasts are being targeted by scammers with fake license offers and fraudulent online equipment sales.

In this week’s issue, we’ll tell you about the latest scams and what you can do to sidestep them.

We also have a list of the five things that should alert you to a romance scam.

Let’s get started…

Gone Fishing? Not With These Scams!

We’re all familiar with phishing scams, where crooks try to steal passwords and other confidential information, but how about fishing scams?

We’re referring to tricks aimed at anglers and others linked to the world of fishing as well as hunters.

By far the most common is defrauding license applicants, usually online.

It relies on the well-known tactic of setting up websites with official-sounding names, sometimes including the name of the license-issuing state.

In the most recent incident, a site that’s been operating for years was taken down a few weeks ago after multiple complaints from people who sent money, believing they were buying a license to fish in Oregon.

After mailing off their checks, victims merely received information on how to get a license. When they tried to get their money back, they either received no reply or were directed to the website’s small-print notice that payments were non-refundable.

After another incident, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warned residents in August not to buy licenses from unauthorized websites.

Madison’s local State Journal quoted the agency’s director of customer services, Kimberly Currie, as saying that a couple of fake sites even promoted a “money-back” guarantee, but they had never honored the pledge.

This scam has been running for several years. It’s successful because tricksters either pay for or manipulate Internet searches so their name always comes out at or near the top.

Generally, anglers, especially inexperienced ones, will search on the term “fishing license,” or “hunting license,” preceded by the name of a state.

According to Fishing News, which reported similar incidents in New Hampshire back in 2016, one of the key signals a site may be fake is if it includes a drop-down list of all the US states.

In reality, licenses are issued by individual states, not via a single, nationwide entity, so any site that includes a dropdown will not be selling licenses.

It’s quite possible that a site with a dropdown may be a legitimate source of information, but it should not be charging you for that information.

Another red flag, seen on fake hunting license sites, is an insistence that before a license can be issued, the applicant must take a paid-for test, or they must pay to download a guide.

And in Maine, the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife noted that some phony sites offering licenses there were also “phishing” — that is, harvesting the personal details of victims, including credit card numbers.

In all cases, licenses are only issued by states, so any online website should be from a state’s fishing or wildlife department and the main website address should end in
“.gov”.

Some tackle and hunting shops and other retail outlets may also be allowed to issue licenses in certain states.

More Fishing and Hunting Scams

Another scam targeting fishing and hunting enthusiasts is the sale of expensive equipment online, either through sites like eBay, third-party sellers on Amazon, or in totally fake sites set up for the whole purpose of scamming.

As with other online sales scams, these turn out to be selling knockoffs, stolen goods, or even non-existent equipment. And, in the latter case, they’ll also be collecting your confidential financial information.

Fake sales of hunting leases have also been uncovered online. It’s as simple as advertising a time-limited lease on popular outdoor sites. Scammers will often meet up with their targets on the land, which they don’t own.

They demand a cash deposit from the would-be hunters and are never seen or heard of again.

To avoid falling victim to this type of scam, ask to see proof of ownership documentation before ever visiting the land.

Another type of scam targets serious hunting and fishing enthusiasts who hire guides or outfitters (organizations that employ guides, organize trips or provide equipment).

There are several tricks, including a variation of the well-known sweepstakes or lottery scam.

In this case, victims, who have been scouted out in advance, are notified that they won a free hunting trip. They’re then told they must pay a number of fees, including payment for guides, accommodation, and more upfront.

The actual trip may or may not be legit. If it’s a real trip, the deception is probably legal but one thing’s for sure — it won’t turn out to be free; all the charges will add up to at least the cost of a regular paid-for trip.

As with its better-known fake lottery counterpart, the antidote to this scam is never to take up a so-called prize from a sweepstakes or competition you didn’t enter. Also, take the time to check out online the reputation of the organization offering the trip.

In fact, whenever you’re hiring a guide or dealing with an outfitter, be sure to check their credentials and experience as well as comparing rates. Anyone can imply they’re a guide but, although rules vary by state, they should be properly registered and qualified.

If you choose a fake or inexperienced fishing or hunting guide, you stand to lose more than your money — possibly your life.

Alert of the Week

Eighty people were recently charged with crimes relating to romance scams. Would you know how to spot a romance trickster?

Here are five red flags:

  1. Someone you meet on a dating site wants to move away from the site and use email.
  2. They quickly tell you they’ve fallen in love with you.
  3. They claim to be traveling or working abroad.
  4. They say they want to visit you but can’t afford it.
  5. They ask for money.

Don’t fall for it!

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.