Taxis collect lottery scam victims, crooks collect on phony debts, and parking lot tricksters take your money and run: Internet Scambusters #645
Taxis being used to ferry lottery scam victims to the bank, bogus suppliers demanding instant payments, and the latest breed of parking lot crooks -- we've got them all in this week's Scambusters issue.
We explain what the tricksters are up to and how you can avoid their scams.
And we have another "pay now" warning -- this time for students from other countries.
Let's get started...
New Twists to Debt Collection, Parking Lot and Lottery Scams
Another twist has shown up with the well-known lottery scam, in which victims are fooled into paying a fortune to collect non-existent winnings.
Lottery scams are a regular feature of our Top 10 scams chart and we've been writing about them since way back in the early days of Scambusters: Very Clever New Twists on Foreign Lottery Scams.
But the crooks keep coming up with new tricks and there seems to be a never-ending stream of victims lined up to hand over the savings or other hard-earned cash.
In the latest version, crooks try to speed up the process of getting their hands on your money by sending taxicabs to collect you and take you to the bank or to the money-wiring service they use.
They also use this ruse when potential victims say they can't get to the bank. Quite often, older people suspect some kind of scam but they still feel powerless when told that a taxi will collect them.
In one instance, police in Cincinnati reported that the scammers sent a cab no less than 10 times to the same address in their efforts to get the victim to send them some money.
So far, it seems that the taxicab firms themselves are just innocent third parties. They get a call from the scammer pretending to live at the victim's address and are told the pick-up will pay the fare.
Like most lottery scams, this one begins with a fairly low sum of money that the victim is asked to pay, usually a couple of hundred dollars.
But once they are hooked, the crooks keep ratcheting up their demands.
In other cases, victims are being conned into parting with their cash through the advance fee scam.
They receive a check supposedly as an installment of their winnings and are then asked to wire part of the sum back as payment for processing services or taxation.
The check, of course, is a dud but victims don't find that out until they've already sent money to the crooks.
Action: Never, never, never pay money to collect winnings. That's not how legitimate lottery organizers work.
And don't fall for the advance fee trick. Again, a legitimate lottery organizer would never use this approach.
"Debt Collection" for Phony Orders
Now, how about another person in your household or family supposedly ordering some items online or by phone and neglecting to pay when the bill comes in?
It can happen. And knowing this, scammers pose as suppliers demanding immediate payment.
Whoever answers the phone is told someone else ordered these products and if they don't pay immediately -- with interest -- the debt will be passed to a collection agency.
The crooks often claim they have a recording of the order placement and a tracking number confirming delivery.
If the victim claims to know nothing about the purchase or argues with the scammer, the caller comes on even heavier and threatens to add further non-payment interest and fees and to send the debt collectors to their front door.
Or they suggest the victim will have to appear in court.
And if they feel that they're losing the scam battle, they have been known to offer to write off part of the "debt" in return for a prompt payment.
Action: The crooks count on victims not calling their bluff and asking for evidence of the order.
If you get one of these calls it's almost certainly a scam. Even if you're not sure if someone else placed an order, always ask to see the evidence and for verifiable identification details of the caller, then speak to whoever supposedly placed it.
New Parking Lot Con Trick
For our third Snippet this week, we want to call attention to another familiar scam -- the parking lot "sale."
All sorts of tricks play out in this setting -- usually a parking lot close to a major store.
Sometimes, crooks sell legitimate-looking product boxes that actually contain just trash. Other times, they display a high-spec product but sell an inferior equivalent inside genuine boxes.
In the latest scam, the crook poses as an employee of the nearby store, offering to sell products at "deep discount" or from "overstock."
They may have a "sample" on show but they ask victims to pay then and there before taking their "receipt" to a customer service desk inside the store.
Of course, when the victim gets there, there's no such deal and by then the crook has made his escape.
Action: Simple -- don't buy from people in parking lots!
Alert of the Week
Students from other countries are being warned of scam calls claiming to be from US Customs and Border Control or the IRS.
The caller demands money to avoid arrest on the pretext of a visa infringement.
Neither Customs nor the IRS operates this way. Please warn any foreign students you know to ignore these threatening calls -- they're as phony as lottery scam winnings!
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.