Latest TV scams offer too-good-to-be true deals: Internet Scambusters #746
Consumers' relationships with their television sets make them a popular target for TV scams.
From fake subscription offers to non-existent TVs in smart packaging, the tricksters have many ways to snare their victims.
In this week's issue, we highlight the 5 most common tricks and how to avoid getting caught.
Let's get started...
Don't Fall for These 5 Common TV Scams
Television viewing is a key element of many people's day-to-day lives, which makes it a top target for TV scams.
Crooks use all manner of tricks to fool victims into handing over money for nothing or giving away confidential information.
In this special issue, we're looking at 5 top scams linked to the TV world that you need to be on the lookout for.
Let's start with the most common TV scam currently doing the rounds:
1. Pay for a Discount Cable/Satellite TV Subscription
Many of us probably feel we already pay too much for our TV subscription, which is why viewers are increasingly "cutting the cord" and turning to alternative, Internet-based streaming TV.
For those of us still connected to cable or satellite TV boxes, who wouldn't be interested in an opportunity to pay less by paying upfront?
That's what scammers are counting on when they call consumers at home offering a prepayment deal.
One trick they use to convince victims the deal is for-real is to pretend the service provider has linked up with online retailer Amazon.
They add to the attractiveness of the supposed deal by promising additional premium channels for free.
They tell victims to buy an Amazon gift card, usually for several hundred dollars, and then call their "billing department" with the card codes.
The billing department is, of course, fake. The call is answered in the name of the TV service provider. The victim tells them the codes, which are presumably than rapidly converted into merchandise purchases.
It may be a while before the victim realizes what has happened.
As far as we've been able to tell, no genuine cable or satellite provider offers such a deal but that doesn't stop the crooks.
If you get a call offering this deal, hang up. It's as simple as that. But if you're wondering if it's genuine, call your TV service provider using their real number, which you'll find on your TV bill.
2. Same Call, Different Purpose
In a variation of this scam, victims are also offered cut price subscriptions but this time, the scammers ask for credit card details, including the security number printed on the back.
They may also ask for other information, like Social Security numbers, claiming they need this for security purposes.
But it's a straightforward identity theft ploy.
The same guidance applies as above: hang up.
Now, let's step outside, if you will, into the parking lot...
3. The White Van Deal
In this longstanding and well-known scam, victims are approached in a parking lot, often close to a store that sells TVs.
The crook often has a vehicle (hence the "White Van" label) seemingly stocked with TVs that he's selling at a knockdown price.
He may suggest the items are stolen or that they're surplus stock from the nearby store.
He has a couple of genuine models to show you and the price is mouthwatering. And there, in the van or the trunk of a car, are half a dozen boxes, still sealed and gleamingly new.
Except that inside is a pile of rubbish that weighs about the same as a TV.
It's a classic confidence trick. Because you've seen the genuine object, you naturally believe that's what's in the box and so you probably won't open it till you get home.
By that time, the crook has disappeared with your money.
The moral: Don't buy stuff from parking lot vendors. You could be falling for a scam or, even if the deal is genuine, you could be buying stolen goods and could end up in trouble with the law.
4. Scammed in the Dead of Night
Now, have you ever been up in the middle of the night and flicked on your TV only to find some sort of "miracle" product being promoted with a very convincing sales spiel by a smooth-talking presenter?
Some of these "infomercials" even appear on some channels during the day.
Maybe the product is genuine, but far too often the claims that are made turn out to be exaggerated at best or totally false at worst.
The fact is that the purveyors of these products pay for the TV time they use and, although the TV channels may be careful to try to avoid scams, they don't have the resources to check out some of the claims made on these shows.
If you want to see how outrageous some of these tricks can be, check out this list of examples in finance site Money Wizard's article: The 5 Most Hilariously Amusing TV Scams of All Time.
The site refers to the claims as "hilarious" but that probably isn't how people who paid for these products feel.
Solution: If you're interested in products promoted on these infomercials, do an online search to see what others are saying.
5. Internet TV
The trend towards subscribing to streaming TV services, which we mentioned earlier, can make good financial sense but you have to be clear on what you're paying for.
Amid all the respectable streaming TV services, there's a small number of "Internet TV" services that offer access to hundreds of TV channels for payment of a one-off fee.
It's not so much a scam as a disappointment -- when subscribers find they've paid for a poor-quality video viewer streaming channels in foreign languages or with very limited viewing appeal.
The lesson here again is to make sure you know what you're paying for by researching what others are writing about the service on offer.
The fact is that you'll get what you pay for -- or, in this case, maybe even less.
Alert of the Week
It's easy to be tricked into panic-clicking a link in an email that seems to come from an organization you belong or subscribe to.
Typically, the message header says something like: "Action required: The email associated with (insert organization's domain name) is temporary suspended." Yes, the copy we saw said "temporary" not "temporarily."
The message usually goes on to warn that the user's account will be cancelled if they don't "relogin," using a helpfully-supplied "Cancel Removal" button.
It's probably a phishing trick or a link to an advertisement site.
Never click links in this type of message. Go directly to the organization's website and check your account from there.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!