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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
In Southfield, Serving Eastern Michigan & the U.P.
Fraud has many faces
BBB gives information on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
April 14, 2014

Although a jury summons may be easy to overlook in a stack of mail, police do not come to your door or call your home with a warrant for your arrest if you miss jury duty, and you do not need to post bail on a Green Dot Visa card. 

This is the latest scam reported to Troy police, said Troy Sgt. Andy Breidenich. He explained that Troy police received a report that someone had called a Troy resident, used an actual name of an Oakland County Sheriff’s Office employee, and said the resident had missed jury duty and there was a warrant out for their arrest. The scammer said the matter could be cleared up if the resident paid money on a prepaid Green Dot Visa card to clear the warrant. The resident didn’t fall for the ruse, but called the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office to report the scam. 

Lisa Dilg, director of community relations for the Better Business Bureau, Detroit, said that once the numbers of the Green Dot cards are given to the scammers, they are “totally untraceable.”

Here are some of the top scams being reported to the BBB:

• Medical alert: Reports of this scam spiked in 2013, according to the BBB. This scam targets seniors and caregivers with promises of a free medical alert system because a family member or friend has already paid for it. The senior is asked to provide bank account or credit information to verify their identity and are charged a $35 fraudulent fee.

• Arrest warrant: Reports of this increased this past fall, according to the BBB. Con artists use technology to change what is visible on caller ID displays and pose as local law enforcement personnel calling about an arrest warrant. The scammers go on to say that the person can pay their fine with a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card. The BBB said that, at times, the scams hit a nerve, while the target is embroiled in a loan or other financial matter, which is just a lucky guess on the scam artist’s part.

• Auction reseller: Con artists fool people selling items on online auction sites such as eBay into shipping items without receiving payment. The scammer claims some emergency, such as a child’s birthday, or family member in the armed forces shipping out. Or the seller receives an email that looks like it’s from PayPal confirming payment, which is fake. The BBB advises sellers to confirm PayPal accounts directly on the eBay website before shipping, especially to overseas addresses.

• Invisible home improvements: Scammers knock on doors offering a great deal on home repairs to areas of a home that are difficult to see, such as crawl spaces, chimneys, roofs or air ducts. Sometimes, the con artists show YouTube videos borrowed from a legitimate contractor to convince the homeowner they are legitimate.

“Check out contractors online at wwwbbb.org/Detroit,” Dilg said. 

• Smishing: In this ruse, a text looks like an alert from your bank asking you to confirm information or reactivate your account by following a link on your smartphone. Banks of all sizes have been targeted, and details of the scam may vary, but the scammers have obtained banking information, and sometimes PIN and ATM numbers, with the fraudulent texts.

• Do not call lists: The National Do Not Call Registry is a free way for people to reduce telemarketing calls, but scammers can call posing as a government official, and asking the person to sign up for the registry or confirm participation with personal information, including Social Security numbers, names, addresses or insurance numbers, which are not required by the registry.

• Fake online friend: This scam begins when you accept a friend request on social media from someone you are already friends with. A popular recent scam involved the theft of someone’s online identity to create fake profiles used to scam someone into clicking onto sketchy websites that download malware. The BBB advises people to be careful on social media, keep privacy settings high and don’t share confidential information.

• Affordable Care Act: The BBB reports this is the “scam of the year.” A scammer calls claiming to be from the federal government and saying the victim needs a new insurance card or Medicare card. The scammer asks for bank, credit card, Social Security, Medicare ID or other personal information.

“Even if you receive a call and are not defrauded, it’s still a good idea to report it,” Breidenich said.

“It does make sense to report it to us, as well,” Dilg said.  She noted that if the BBB gets a lot of calls about a particular scam, or if they learn of a very unusual scam, they can publicize it.

Dilg added that there is a recent scam targeting seniors in which someone claiming to be from a utility company calls about an overdue bill.

“The senior is told to pay the bill on a Green Dot card,” she said.

Dilg said the BBB gives seminars on how to thwart scams to groups of seniors and others, free of charge. Call (248) 223-9400 or visit www.bbb.org/detroit.