Callers use caller ID spoofing technology to appear to call from credible sources
COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is warning of a phone scam where callers posing as health department staff are asking for personal information that the department would never seek over the phone. The callers use caller ID spoofing technology to make it appear that they are calling from a credible phone number, including from ODH and at least one Ohio local health department.
In addition to posing as ODH staff, some callers have said that they are calling on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or a hospital or other healthcare provider.
The callers often have some personal information about the individuals they are calling, such as name, date of birth, address and the name of the person’s physician.
Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim of a phone scam:
If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and find a phone number on the company’s or government agency’s website to call to verify the authenticity of the request.
Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
You can block the caller’s phone number to try to prevent follow up calls – although the caller may call back from a different phone number.
File a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov/complaint.
Since this scam includes caller ID spoofing of a state agency, the Ohio Highway Patrol is investigating these calls.
Central Ohio Consultants Accused of Taking Consumers’ Money for Fake Program
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a consumer protection lawsuit against a Columbus-based company accused of misrepresenting and failing to deliver promised financial services.
The lawsuit accuses Erika Taylor Consulting, Minority Credit & Finance Commission, Erika Taylor, and Kurtis Turner of failing to deliver services or refunds, promising consumers they would receive money if they paid for a background check and consulting fee, and entering into consumer transactions that they knew were not beneficial to the consumer.
Consumers who complained to the Attorney General’s Office said they were were promised up to $25,000 as a gift for participating in a financial program and collectively paid nearly $9,500 in fees but never received the promised services or money.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, accuses Taylor and Turner of violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practice Act. Counts include: failure to deliver, misrepresentation, and entering into transactions that do not provide a substantial benefit to the consumer.
In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks restitution for consumers and an end to violations of Ohio consumer protection laws.
Attorney General DeWine encourages consumers to be cautious about businesses that promise free money while requesting personal information and payment of fees to receive the money. Consumers should also check both the company name and the name of the owner or individuals involved with the operation, as some operators change business names regularly to make it harder for consumers to find them.
To research a company, search for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau, check business filings with the Ohio Secretary of State, conduct internet searches, and check court websites for legal action.
Consumers should report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling 800-282-0515.
BBB Scam Spotlight: August 2017
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 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.
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 information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.
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.
Grandparents Target of Phone Scams, DeWine Warns
In recognition of National Grandparent’s Day, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning families to beware of phone scams targeting grandparents.
In a typical “grandparent” phone scam, a grandparent receives a phone call from someone posing as a grandchild. The caller claims to be in trouble and in urgent need of money, maybe to pay a fine or to keep the grandchild out of jail. The grandparent is asked to send money immediately, often out of the country, using a prepaid money card or wire transfer. In other variations of the scam, the person on the phone asks for iTunes gift cards. The caller will often ask the grandparent not to “tell Mom or Dad.”
“Scammers believe grandparents are easy targets because of the special relationship many have with their grandchildren,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We want to make sure families are educated about the kinds of scams that are out there, so they don’t become victims.”
Grandparents who send money or gift cards likely will receive additional calls requesting more money. The scammer will claim that more money is needed to help the grandchild return home safely. Eventually, grandparents discover that their grandchild was not in trouble.
Ohioans can keep the following tips in mind to help prevent becoming a victim of this scam:
Communicate with your family members. Talk to your family about scams and discuss how you would communicate during a true emergency. If you receive a call from a grandchild or another family member who claims to be in trouble, contact someone else (such as the grandchild’s parents) to determine if the person truly needs your help, even if you’ve been instructed not to contact anyone else. When in doubt, ask questions only your real family members would know how to answer, such as the last time you saw each other.
Limit the amount of information you share online. Don’t post upcoming travel plans or detailed personal information online, and encourage your family members to take similar precautions. Check your account privacy settings and limit who can view your information. Be aware that scammers may use information posted on social media or publicly available online to learn more about their targets and to make their ploys seem believable.
Be wary of unusual payment requests. If a caller demands that you pay over the phone using a gift card or a prepaid reloadable card, it’s likely a scam. Also be wary of requests for payment via wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scammers because it is difficult to trace or recover the payment once it is provided.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office warns consumers about scams and offers a variety of educational materials, including a phone scams checklist.
Ohioans who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
BBB Warns Central Ohio Against Itinerant Paving Company
During the warmer months, it is not unusual for door-to-door pavers to go through neighborhoods offering to repair driveways. The pavers may indicate they have extra asphalt from another job and can offer a good price. BBB has reports of one such company traveling through Central Ohio.
BBB received complaints from two Logan, Ohio residents who reported an “itinerant paving company” doing business with the name Star Seal. Both consumers had a similar experience: the company made promises to seal their driveway then disappeared after a poor job.
According to the reports, one senior paid $450 in cash to have his driveway sealed. Star Seal sprayed the driveway, but nothing was actually sealed. The other senior paid a man named Patrick Riley $250 in cash. Riley sprayed his driveway, but the rain washed the sealant away. The company did not leave an address, but was driving a white Chevy pickup with South Carolina license plates.
In both cases, the company promised to return in a few days, but have not shown up in weeks. BBB reported Star Seal to the Hocking County Sheriff’s office so they can be aware of the activity in their area. The business also goes by the names Pro Coating and Riley Asphalt Seal Coating.
To avoid itinerant asphalt scams, BBB offers the following tips:
If a business comes knocking, search for them online and at bbb.org to see if they are a trustworthy company. Reputable asphalt contractors will rarely if ever sell their product door-to-door.
Take notice if the contractor is from out-of-state or in an unmarked truck. These are often signs of itinerant contractors. Scammers have also recently been purchasing local cell phone plans to appear as if they are a local area business. A little research will reveal they have no permanent address or are traveling from out of state.
Be wary of contractors who claim they have leftover asphalt from another job. Professional asphalt contractors know with great accuracy how much paving material is needed to complete a project and will rarely have leftover material.
Resist pressure to make a quick decision. Trustworthy contractors provide a written estimate that should be valid for a specified amount of time. Do not feel pressure to hire someone on the spot.
Insist on a written contract specifying in detail the work to be performed and the agreed total price, not just price per square foot.
Be cautious if a contractor wants a cash-only sale. Most reputable contractors take checks or credit cards and do not require cash-only terms. If you pay in cash and there is a problem, there is no trail or record of the money once they leave.
Beware of deals that seems too good to be true. If the quoted price is very low, chances are the quality of work will be low as well.
Consumers who would like to file a complaint against a business can do so at bbb.org. If a scam has happened to you or someone you know, it can be reported to alert others in your community at BBB Scam Tracker.