The Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana routinely warns people of scams through its website and news releases to the media.
Although details vary, frauds often share similar elements that savvy consumers can learn to spot. Here are three variations:
The grandma scam
This ploy snags compassionate – and confused – souls.
The scammer typically acquires details of a young person’s life from social media, including names of grandparents. Then the fraudster calls the grandparent, claiming to be the grandchild and claiming to be in trouble.
The fake grandchild typically says he is in jail in a foreign country and needs money sent fast. The impostor also begs the grandparent not to tell his parents because they would be extremely angry.
Some people fall for the scam because the phone reception isn’t clear and they can’t hear well, making them more susceptible to mistaking a stranger for a grandchild. The phone call may come late at night, pressuring the target to make quick decisions while still half asleep.
Anyone receiving this kind of call should hang up and report it to the Better Business Bureau. Never give the caller financial information or wire money.
If unsure, the grandparent should call the grandchild or check with family members to verify the grandchild’s location.
The lottery scam
This ploy appeals to those who hope to get rich quick.
It begins with the supposed good news that the target has won a windfall. The Irish Sweepstakes – or any one of numerous variations – could be credited as the source of the jackpot.
But there’s just one problem, the scammer says in a letter or phone call. The “winner” needs to put up some money first to claim the mountains of cash.
The excuse might be that taxes need to be paid. Or maybe the potential victim has to pay a fee to fly to Europe to claim the prize in person.
These are all lies, of course. A quick tipoff is that the person being contacted never bought a ticket for the supposed lottery or sweepstakes.
Do not share any information or send money.
The disaster scam
This ploy preys on those affected by natural disasters and those who want to help others caught by disaster.
One version of the scam is used by traveling bands of scammers who go to areas devastated by tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.
They offer to do repairs for distressed homeowners. The cheaters ask for money to buy materials, then disappear with the cash without finishing the promised work.
Don’t hire anyone for home repairs without checking them out first on the bureau’s website and getting referrals from satisfied local customers.
Another variation is the fake website created to solicit contributions for disaster victims worldwide.
The scammers seek more than donations. They want your credit or checking account information so they can steal your identity and steal your money.
Before donating any money to a relief organization, check it out with the Better Business Bureau to make sure it has a well-established history and uses most of the money for its stated mission rather than for administrative expenses.