In Jan Michael Zavislan’s 25 years at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, the only significant change he has seen in the effort to fight fraud is the sophisticated methods in which fraudsters conduct their business.
Zavislan, deputy attorney general for consumer protection, was one of four panelists when the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust launched its BBB Center for Fraud Prevention on Oct. 29 with a discussion on how Northern Colorado and Wyoming businesses, law enforcement and regulatory agencies can collaborate to fight fraud. More than 100 people attended the event.
Zavislan said debt-collection calls top the list of fraud in Colorado. “There’s been a huge upsurge. They use aggressive tactics and threaten to prosecute and arrest homeowners. Some have even threatened to come to homes and blow them up,” he said. The calls come from abroad as well as the U.S.
In Wyoming, fraud cases range from lotteries to timeshare scams. Melissa R. Theriault, Wyoming special assistant attorney general, said the state is seeing an increase in scammers requesting payment via Green Dot MoneyPaks, which are sold at local convenience stores, pharmacies and major retailers, and provide a convenient way to pay bills online and make purchases on the Internet. Con artists have found ways to deceive consumers into handing over the MoneyPak 14-digit security code over the telephone, thereby allowing the scammers to immediately transfer the money out of the account. Once transferred, the consumer’s money is lost.
Gullibility of consumers is not limited by demographics or by parental professions, pointed out Joseph McCarthy, senior vice president and regional director of the Western Region of FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. He shared how his 19-year-old son put his sizable Star Wars collection for sale on Craigslist. “He had a buyer for $1,600. I received a call at work and my son told me he needed to send $500 to receive the payment.”
McCarthy recommends doing the same due diligence of financial advisers and investment firms as you would for a roofing company. Check out business reviews, check out financial designations to determine which ones require actual certifications and which ones are simply for show.
“Be curious, be skeptical. Never lose site that if it’s too good to be true …”
Brenda Linnington, director of BBB Military Line®, discussed why military personnel and their families are prime targets at both the panel discussion and later in the day at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne where she met separately with first sergeants, First Term Airman Center personnel and spouses.
Because military service members are usually young, on their own for the first time and financially inexperienced, Linnington said they are often tricked into applying for high-fee loans for everything from cars to pets and being fooled by scammers using the names of legitimate businesses and organizations.
BBB Military Line works with both service members and their families to educate them on smart investing and budgeting, identity theft and consumer fraud, she said.
For more information on how you can help BBB Institute fight fraud, visit wynco.bbb.org/fighting-fraud or call BBB Institute Director Carrie Rossman at 970-488-2043.