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 November, Central Ohio consumers reported losing almost $1,500 to scams.
BBB analyzed 40 Scam Tracker reports from November 2017 to shed a spotlight on three scams affecting our Central Ohio community:
1. Government Grant Scam: A senior citizen from London, Ohio was contacted through her Facebook letting her know she qualified for a grant. Then, the same account contacted her friends trying to scam them as well, this time using her name and pretending to be her. She paid $624 to the scammers with her bank debit card to get the grant, but never received any money.
BBB wants consumers to know The United States Government will not contact anyone directly for loans, or require that you pay any sort of fee to receive loans. If you receive a call stating you qualify for a government loan, simply hang up. Be wary of anyone asking for payment in the form of gift cards or prepaid money cards, as they are most likely a scammer.
If you receive a Facebook message from a friend or someone familiar asking for money or claiming you have won a prize, contact that person directly to confirm it is them and not a fake account. Their account may have been hacked, and can be reported to Facebook directly.
2. Advance Fee Loan Scam: A Clarksburg, Ohio man’s fiance was applying for loans online and received a call that she had been approved for a loan, but first had to buy $650 worth of iTunes gift cards to improve her credit score. The couple has two disabled children and were hoping to use the loan for Christmas gifts, so the fiance bought the gift cards.
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.
3. Romance Scam: A man from Columbus, Ohio received a Facebook message from a woman claiming that her father, an African king, passed away and left her money. She said she was currently hiding in a refugee camp in Senegal, but with his help she could come to America. The woman said she loved him, and he received emails from her “barrister” (attorney) as well as the “Royal Bank of Scotland” confirming she needed money and they would help. She asked for $700, but he was suspicious and did not send any money.
Because scammers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities, romance scams can easily happen to anyone. BBB has tips on how to spot a romance scam before it’s too late.
Be wary of any dating prospect who:
Always has an excuse to postpone meeting face-to-face. Someone who is really interested in a relationship will want to see you in person. Be wary of someone who is constantly "traveling" or happens to be located overseas.
Has a photo that doesn't match his/her profile. Be on the lookout for big discrepancies. For example, a scammer may describe their fake persona as blonde but uses a photo of a brunette.
Claims to be from this country but is currently traveling, living or working abroad. Scammers frequently pretend to be temporarily working or stationed overseas.
Has a suspicious Facebook profile. Scammers will often use the names and photos of real people to create fake Facebook profiles. Their profiles tend to have few friends and many grammatical errors. Also check to see when they joined. Recent pages are another red flag.
Asks you for money or credit card information. Scammers often claim an emergency, like a sick relative or stolen wallet, and will ask you to wire money. The first wire transfer is small but the requests keep coming and the amount keeps growing.
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 atbbb.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.