Leon County, FL - The Leon County Sheriff's Office Financial Crimes Unit has been observing several nationwide "Fraud Scams" that may be affecting Leon County citizens. Here are some tips for keeping your finances safe from scammers.
Secret Shopper or Mystery Shopper
This is one of the more serious scams involving someone claiming to be with a legitimate company such as "Secret Shopper®" or some other type Internet Company. The premise behind the scam is the suspect will send out large counterfeit cashier's checks or money orders to new "Shoppers / Victims".
The shopper is told to cash the check and wire the majority of the funds via MoneyGram or Western Union, then keep the rest as their 'pay' for the shop. The shopper is told they can keep the items they "shop" for and then complete a survey on the shopping experience and on the use of the Moneygram and/or Western Union experience. Don't be fooled by these scams! The FDIC requires banks to make funds available on cashier's checks and money orders within 1-5 days, so the scammers are counting on you receiving the funds and going through with the wire transfer before the check or money order has actually cleared the bank. By the time you find out that the check is not legitimate, you are out the money you sent and will be held accountable for the bounced check by your financial institution. Unfortunately, these fraudulent companies use various names or web addresses of reputable companies in their ads and emails.
-Ticket scams (Athletic Events, Concerts, etc.)
-House for rent scams, by people other than the home owner.
-Electronics (either don't exist or items are stolen)
-Re-shippers (jobs where items are sent to you and "your boss" asks you to repackage and send them in the USA or overseas. The items "your boss" is having sent to you are purchased with stolen credit cards.
-Cheap prices on vehicles and motorcycles, where you are required to "wire" a down payment.
RULES TO NOT BE SCAMMED VIA CRAIGSLIST
-DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON. Follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
-NEVER WIRE FUNDS VIA WESTERN UNION, MONEYGRAM or any other wire service. Anyone who asks you to do so is likely a scammer.
-FAKE CASHIER CHECKS & MONEY ORDERS ARE COMMON, and BANKS WILL CASH THEM AND THEN HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE WHEN THE FAKE IS DISCOVERED WEEKS LATER.
-CRAIGSLIST IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY TRANSACTION, and does not handle payments, guarantee transactions, provide escrow services, or offer "buyer protection" or "seller certification.
-NEVER GIVE OUT FINANCIAL INFORMATION (bank account number, social security number,
eBay/PayPal info, etc.)
-AVOID DEALS INVOLVING SHIPPING OR ESCROW SERVICES and know that ONLY A SCAMMER WILL "GUARANTEE" YOUR TRANSACTION.
-DO NOT RENT HOUSING WITHOUT SEEING THE INTERIOR OR PURCHASE EXPENSIVE ITEMS SIGHT UNSEEN. In all likelihood that housing unit is not actually for rent and that cheap item does not exist.
-DO NOT SUBMIT TO CREDIT CHECKS OR BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR A JOB OR FOR
HOUSING UNTIL YOU HAVE MET THE INTERVIEWER OR LANDLORD/AGENT IN PERSON.
(Rules from Craigslist.com)
We have been seeing a large amount of victim's (usually elderly) who are called and told they have won the Lottery, sometimes the company has a legitimate sounding name (Example: "Global International"), but it is commonly referred to as the Jamaican Lottery. This is because this is the country where many of the scam calls are made from. The caller advises you are to receive 2.5 million dollars and a luxury car, like a Mercedes. The caller then asks you to obtain a receipt from "Western Union" or MoneyGram or Visa pre-paid Green Dot cards that can be purchased from Wal-Mart. If the caller uses Western Union or MoneyGram he requests you to wire $475.00 to an "attorney" for the company that is giving this prize away, for processing fees. The caller will provide an address to send the money to. The caller will tell you that the prize was to be delivered the next day and that a Lottery Representative would meet you at your bank to cash the 2.5 million dollar check. If the caller requests the "Green Dot" cards he will ask you to give the number off the back of the card. Once he/she has the number the funds can be taken off the card via the internet, while you still have the card in hand.
There are three things you should look for when it comes to lottery scams like this one.
1. First, if you did not enter a lottery, you did not win one.
2. Second, (playing in) foreign lotteries are illegal in the United States.
3. Third, it is illegal for an agency to require a winner of a prize to pay in order to receive their compensation."
Time Share -Resellers Scam This is a scam where thieves will pay for a list of people who own Time Share vacation locations. They will contact these people and inquire if they would like to sell their Time Share property. Many times people who own these properties decide to get rid of them. The scammer will call you over a period of time and "Negotiate" a deal with a potential buyer. The victim wires or sends them a check only to be out of their cash and still holding their Time Share property. In many cases, scammers begin the call by representing that they have a buyer for the consumer's timeshare unit and that the sale can be closed within a specified period of time, often 30 to 45 days. Scammers also typically tell consumers the price the purported buyer is willing to pay for the timeshare unit, which frequently is at or above the consumer's asking price."
A fee, typically $1,996, was required to get the process started. But that money was supposedly refundable when the sale closed. This is a common scam in Central Florida, but it is also occurring in Leon County, since people living here own such properties.
-Remember if you have to pay up front it should send up a red flag.
Anyone with questions about these tips is asked to contact the Financial Crimes Unit at (850) 922-3400.