Columbus, OH - Each year, one in four North American households are scammed. Because money loss and identity theft can happen to anyone, BBB encourages community members to protect and inform others by reporting any scam-related experiences to BBB’s Scam Tracker.
In August, Central Ohio consumers reported losing a total of $2,934.00 to scams.
BBB analyzed 42 Scam Tracker reports from August 2017 to shed a spotlight on three scams affecting our Central Ohio community:
1. Advance Fee Loan Scam: A Columbus, Ohio woman applied for a loan online and was contacted by a scam company calling itself E-Loan. They told her she was approved, they would deposit money into her account and then she would have to send some back via iTunes gift cards as insurance in case she fell ill or was hospitalized. They made two separate deposits into her account, she withdrew the money and purchased the iTunes gift cards from Walmart. During the transaction, she then took pictures of the backs of the iTunes cards to text to the scammer.
The next day, the money that had been deposited into her checking account was withdrawn by the scammer on the same day that her Social Security Disability check was deposited. Because she had withdrawn money the day before, the bank took the Social Security Disability check to cover the loss. She has no other source of income until her next check is deposited and reported losing a total of $1,575.00.
A man from Columbus also reported losing $500 to E-Loan this past month.
BBB would like to remind consumers that advance fee loans are illegal in the United States and Canada. If you are told you qualify for a loan, you should never have to pay fees before receiving the money.
Be wary of unusual payment methods as well. In any instance, fees should never be paid via Green Dot MoneyPaks, iTunes cards or by wiring money.
2. Online Puppy Scam: A Middleport, Ohio woman paid $720 by Western Union for a Bichon Frise puppy through Silver Line Express Couriers. Silver Line Express Couriers sent her an email saying they would collect the payment and deliver the puppy to her with instructions to send her payments to a man in Los Angeles, California. The emails included details describing the flights and fees. The consumer is out the money and without a new pet.
If you are looking to purchase a pet, always visit the breeder. Responsible breeders and rescue groups will be more than happy to give you a tour. Be sure to pick your puppy up at the kennel - do not rely on the breeder to ship the puppy. It is also best to see the puppy in person to confirm that it actually exists. Finally, pay with check or credit card. If a breeder pressures you to pay by wire transfer or a prepaid debit card, it is probably a scam.
3. Phony Debt Collection Scam: A woman from South Solon, Ohio received a call from National Information Center. They claimed that Fifth Third Bank sold her debt to them and she owed them $400. The caller had some of her personal information, including the last four digits of her social security number and her former employer.
Another woman from Pataskala said she got a call from “Licking County”, asking for her daughter and threatening her with court if she did not pay a debt that she owed. The daughter agreed to pay $100 with her debit card.
Despite the threats, these "debt collectors" do not have any legal power. In most cases, the alleged overdue loan does not even exist. Do not give in and pay money you do not owe. If you do, the scammer will likely be back for more.
If you receive one of these calls, ask the debt collector to provide official "validation notice" of the debt. In the U.S., debt collectors are required by law to provide this information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a statement of your rights. If the self-proclaimed collector won't provide the information, hang up.
You could also ask the caller for more information. If you do owe money and are not sure if the caller is real, ask for their name, company, street address, and telephone number. Do not provide any bank account, credit card, or other personally identifiable information over the phone. If the collector is legitimate, they should have details on the accounts in question.
Consumers are encouraged to report scams to BBB Scam Tracker to help protect others in the Central Ohio community.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.