Scams

AG: Hoosiers should beware of health insurance enrollment scams

Zoeller: Federal government shutdown escalating scams

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is warning Hoosiers against scammers taking advantage of the federal health insurance enrollment period that began October 1, 2013. Zoeller warns that the additional inability of Hoosiers to get help from the federal government during the shutdown escalates the need for people to be on guard against possible scam artists, who might seek to profit from selling insurance or by gathering personal information to use fraudulently.

“During large-scale government roll-outs, scammers come out of the woodwork to take advantage of any confusion surrounding the program -- luring people away from legitimate websites and posing as employees or agents of the agency. Additionally, with many federal agencies closed, help is even harder to find, so it’s necessary for those of us in state offices to fill this vacuum,” Zoeller said.

The Attorney General says Hoosiers need to be cautious and never provide personal financial information or a social security number to anyone that shows up on your doorstep or contacts you by phone to enroll you in the federal insurance program.

Tips to Avoid Scams and resources for assistance include:

• The government will never call or e-mail consumers to solicit enrollment plans. Marketplace options and additional information is available at www.HealthCare.gov or at the Help Center, available 24/7, at 1-800-318-2596.

• Anyone claiming to be enrolling consumers in coverage through the Marketplace before October 1 is not legitimate. Be wary of individuals contacting you with a “limited time special.” Rates will remain the same from October 1 to March 31, 2014.

• Navigators, by law, may not charge a fee for service; however, licensed health insurance agents and brokers receive commission from insurance companies for plan enrollment.

• Navigators are there to assist you during the enrollment period.

• Navigators will ask you question about your income, family size, and other relevant personal information to help you make a decision about the type of coverage you want.

• Navigators will ask for the size of the family to determine coverage options and for income information to determine eligibility for tax credits or Medicaid

• Navigators WILL NOT call you to enroll you in health insurance.

• Navigators WILL NOT notify you about special limited time offers.

• You can find your local Navigators at: http://www.healthcare.gov/, and http://www.sircon.com/resource/layout.jsp?page=indianaLps&type=indiana.

If a salesperson aggressively pressures you into buying insurance by telling you that you will face jail time if you do not have health insurance, beware -- this is not true.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office is the state’s consumer protection agency. More information on avoiding charity scams is available on the Attorney General’s website at www.IndianaConsumer.com.

(June 2013) Attorney General Greg Zoeller asks consumers to hang up on a new utility bill scam

Zoeller says Hoosiers should hang up on utility bill scam
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller asks consumers to hang up on a new scam where callers impersonate utility company employees and ask for payment on delinquent bills.

The Attorney General’s office and utility companies have received reports about calls notifying homeowners of past due utility bills, but traditional forms of payment such as checks and credit cards are not accepted. Zoeller said the scammers ask for the customer to purchase a prepaid debit card, often found at Walmart or gas stations, and call them back with the PIN number.

“Criminals are using easily accessible prepaid debit cards to take victims’ money and avoid being traced,” Zoeller said. “This form of payment is just like giving cash – once you hand it over it’s gone. As the weather begins to heat up consumers should be on alert as scammers will try to use threats – like utility disconnection – in order to con you out of your money.”

Zoeller said if Indiana consumers receive a call asking for a prepaid card or personal information just hang-up and contact the utility provider directly. Utility customers with delinquent accounts often receive multiple notifications, including written notice, from their utility over the span of several weeks before services are disconnected.

In order to appear legitimate, scammers use caller ID spoofing technology which allows them to disguise their phone number. For example, your caller ID screen may have the name of a local utility company, but the call could actually be coming from another state or country.

Individuals who believe they may be a victim can file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s office by visiting www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1-800-380-5516.

Medicare Scam

 

A resident of the Cross Plains community telephoned the Ripley County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, April 4, 2013 leaving information on a scam currently making the rounds in Ripley County.

 

The phone call solicitation comes from a foreign sounding male, informing the call recepient that Medicare recipients are receiving their new, up-to-date cards.  The caller states he needs to verify the Medicare recipient's personal information, along with their current banking information.  This is not from Medicare, but a person trying to gather important, personal information for their own benefit.
 

DO NOT give any person your personal and/or banking information, unless you 100% trust the sorce.

 

If anyone does call asking for this information, and you cannot confirm the identity of the caller 100%, hang up IMMEDIATELY.

(February 2013) College bound students interested in applying for student loans should be aware of websites that may not be on the "up and up." It was reported to the Sheriff's Office a highschool student logged into a site that ended in ".com" instead of ".gov." and was scammed for $80.00. All the characters in front of .com match the web address for FAFSA.ed.gov. FAFSA.ed.gov is a free site. Other sites may allege to help find money for college, but the companies make no effort to find grants or scholarships, but charge a fee. School guidance counselors, as well as law enforcement, try to stay ahead of these scams, but aren't always successful. The Sheriff's Office encourages you to investigate any site, and ask questions, prior to doing business with any internet company. An important detail is to read the disclaimer information at the bottom of the main page on a website. If you have any information on scams, or information that is helpful to the public, please reach out to your local law enforcement authority, or media outlet.
(January 2013) The Sheriff’s Office has identified individuals believed to be responsible for going door- to-door asking for money on behalf of the Hope Baptist Church located in Dillsboro. In August 2012, the Sheriff’s Office received complaints of a scam and began an investigation. After a several month long investigation, suspects were located and interviewed. Other persons who may have been victims or witnesses have been spoken to as well. However, the investigation continues. Currently, names are being withheld pending formal charging by the prosecuting attorney. If you believe that you or someone you know was a victim of this scam, or have information regarding this scam, please contact the Sheriff’s Office.

“ Scams are going on everywhere, and it is hard to keep up with them,” noted Sheriff Grills. “We, the Sheriff’s Office, attempt to keep up with all the complaints, but there are way more reported than we can investigate. I would like to remind everyone to make donations locally if you like, and to make sure you do not give personal information out over the phone or through the mail. Also, make sure you inquire with the three major credit bureaus to monitor your credit every year.”

Sheriff Grills will be at Buckeye Village on January 21, at 10am to give a seminar on how to protect yourself from scams and identity theft. This seminar will be open to the public.
(January 2013) Telephone Scam reported to Sheriff's Office. Check your email or see the Sheriff's Office website for further

The Ripley County Sheriff's Office has received complaints of a phone call that tells homeowners there has been a burglary in their area. The caller advises they will install a home alarm system for free and then requests private information.

The scam call comes from number (767) 275-4471. Sheriff Tom Grills advises if you see that number on your caller ID, do not answer it.

The prefix 767 returns to the Dominican Republic.

Be cautious of any phone solicitation, and never give out your private information unless you trust the source 100%.

(December 2012)News reports and consumer calls confirm that the “Property Deed Scam” is still hitting home with Hoosiers.

The mailing is often from a private company, with a government-like name, offering certified copies of your land deed for an excessive fee – up to $87. Property deeds are public records and your county recorder can provide you a copy for free or at a nominal cost, often times a $1 per page.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said that while the property deed service is not necessarily illegal, the solicitation can often mislead consumers into believing they need a copy. Homeowners are not required to have copies even when they sell a property.

Zoeller asks consumers to disregard the mailings and help warn family and friends – especially senior citizens. If you have any doubts about a mailing offering a government-provided service, contact the entity directly to confirm the solicitation’s legitimacy. If you have paid for this service, but did not receive your deed copy you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by visiting www.IndianaConsumer.com or requesting a complaint form be mailed to you by calling 1.800.382.5516.

CONSUMER ALERT: Don’t be defrauded by Sandy scammers

Zoeller urges generous Hoosiers to donate responsibly to hurricane relief

 

(November 2012) In light of the massive storm system that pounded the East Coast this week, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller warns Hoosiers to be on guard against scam artists who might seek to profit off the Hurricane Sandy disaster.

 

First, beware of individuals posing as representatives of cable TV companies or Internet service providers who might call and claim customers will receive a billing credit due to supposed outages caused by Hurricane Sandy and then ask for the customer’s bank account information. Such fraudulent calls are known as “phishing” scams. To avoid identity theft or fraudulent withdrawals from their bank accounts, consumers should never give their account information over the phone to anyone unless the consumer initiates the call.

 

For more information on how to detect identity theft, protect one’s credit and repair any damage once done, consumers can visit this link on the Attorney General’s Office web site: the ID Theft Prevention Toolkit: www.indianaconsumer.com/idtheft/.

Although the widespread damage, flooding and power outages Sandy inflicted might prompt generous Hoosiers to donate to relief efforts, Zoeller warns the public to verify first that relief organizations are reputable, so that they aren’t scammed. He suggests researching the website www.CharityNavigator.org to check whether a charity uses donations for intended purposes.

 

“When natural disasters strike Indiana, our neighbor states or other nations, Hoosiers always respond selflessly with donations. The best way to maximize their generosity is to donate smartly and wisely to established, transparent disaster-relief charities,” Zoeller said.

 

Here are a few simple tips for donating to avoid being scammed:

 

  • Make donations to established organizations with a strong track record of organizing and providing disaster relief.

 

  • Initiate the donation yourself, rather than responding to online or phone solicitations.

 

  • Use the website www.CharityNavigator.org to assist in identifying relief organizations and determining how much of their donations are used to help victims rather than on administrative overhead.

 

  • To confirm an online donation site is secure so that your financial information won’t be improperly accessed during the transaction, look for “https” in the organization’s website.

 

  • Avoid door-to-door solicitors or offers from charities to stop by a consumer’s home to pick up a check. These too could be fraudulent.

 

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office is the state’s consumer protection agency. More information on avoiding charity scams is available on the Attorney General’s website at www.IndianaConsumer.com.

(September 2012) Scam Targeting Seniors Funnels Their Social Security Payments Elsewhere

  (July 2012) Bogus car ads can lead to real losses for consumers

 

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller warns consumers that an ultra-low price tag on a vehicle advertised online could be hiding a scam.

 

Zoeller said his office has received complaints from Hoosiers who have wired payments for cars listed online to later realize the vehicles were never shipped and the sellers can’t be reached.

 

Just like rental property scams, criminals can hijack legitimate car listings, change the contact information and then list the modified ads on another site; or they make up listings for vehicles that aren’t for sale or don’t exist.

 

The fraudulent seller often has long stories about why they aren’t available to show the car, why they can only be reached via email or why the car is priced below market value. Scammers may tell victims that they are going through a divorce and that’s why the price is low or claim they have been transferred overseas and can’t afford to have the car shipped to their new location.

 

Buyers are also told to send payment through a wire transfer service. Unfortunately, after victims send the money the cars never arrive and the scammers are long gone.

 

The Attorney General’s Office offers several tips to help consumers protect themselves from fraudulent car advertisements:

  • Scammers use a sense of urgency to force buyers to do things they wouldn’t normally do – such as disregard red flags and make a purchase without seeing the item in person;
  • Don't use money transfer companies as an escrow service. Choose and contact a reputable escrow service yourself by verifying their legitimacy. Scammers will try to make you believe they are using an escrow service, when they have actually set up fake accounts using real company names;
  • Do not use money transfer services to purchase a vehicle online. They are not intended to be used for payment when doing business with a stranger you have not personally met; and
  • Be a cautious buyer and be prepared to walk away. Make sure you have the car checked out by a reputable company or someone you know and trust before purchasing it. If the seller does not allow this or tells you that he will only accept a money transfer before allowing you to see the car, walk away.

Also, be cautious if you advertise your car for sale online. Some scammers will produce fraudulent checks, cashier’s checks or money orders hoping the seller will release the car before realizing the check bounced. Be wary if a buyer pays with a check and then “realizes” they paid too much. The scammer may ask for you to wire the overages back while they have someone pick-up the vehicle. Unfortunately, the seller doesn’t realize the check was a fake before their car and money have been stolen.

(June 2012) Personal, believable stories lure in grandparents

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller encourages Hoosiers to be on guard while online as scammers can use your profile information to rip off you or those you know.

For example, a fraudster could use your social media profile to learn the names of grandchildren and grandparents to commit what’s called the grandparent scam. In this case, a victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to be their grandchild who is visiting another country and in need of emergency funds. The phone is quickly handed off to someone claiming to be law enforcement, a medical professional or an attorney. This person goes on to explain they can take care of the situation quickly and return the grandchild home if a money wire is sent immediately. The caller will try to convince the victim not to call police or contact other family members.

Emergency fund scams can target more than just grandparents. Criminals can also try hacking your email account to access your contact list. With this valuable information the thief can send a mass email claiming to be you and ask people you know for emergency money. Often the email will say you were recently mugged while out of the country or in a car accident and that’s why you need a wire transfer.

To avoid becoming a victim ask the caller or email sender questions that would be hard for an imposter to answer correctly – like the name of the person’s pet. Hang up and then directly contact your friend or family member who claims to be in trouble to confirm an emergency exists. If you can’t reach the person contact someone else including their parents, friends or other relatives.

State lawsuit targets door-to-door frozen meat sales company

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has filed a lawsuit in Allen County against door-to-door meat sales company Country Choice, Inc.
According to the lawsuit, four Indiana customers purchased frozen meat products ranging in price from $373 to $399, but were unable to cancel their transactions within the three-day time period allowed under Indiana law.
“Door-to-door sales can put consumers in high pressure situations and lead to buyers’ remorse after the transaction,” Zoeller said. “While a sale is typically considered final immediately the law provides an exception for those sales occurring in your home. It’s important for consumers to know and understand their rights before answering the knock at the door. This lawsuit highlights our efforts to stop unscrupulous businesses that intentionally disregard the law to rip off their customers.”
One Country Choice customer purchased a case of beef for $399 and the next day sent a certified letter to the company requesting cancellation, but received no response. According to the complaint, Country Choice failed to provide the consumer with information regarding the right to cancel and did not honor its one-year satisfaction guarantee.
Zoeller said state law requires these types of door-to-door sales companies to give customers two copies of their cancellation rights and provide the deadline to cancel. Consumers have a right to cancel if they give written notice by mail or in person within three days of the purchase. Sellers are also required to return any customer payment within 10 business days of receiving cancellation notice.
A separate customer purchased $399 in meat products, but was unable to cancel the transaction even though the receipt noted the three-day cancellation period. The victim said a company representative called and promised to pick up the meat but failed to do so.
The Michigan-based company is accused of violating the Home Solicitations Sales Act, a 2009 settlement with the Attorney General’s Office and the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. The state seeks restitution for consumers, attorney costs and civil penalties.
Zoeller said unscrupulous sellers may tell consumers they will give them time to cancel to allow more time to fully try out their product. Then, if the customer tries to cancel at a later date, they may claim the time to cancel has passed. Zoeller said any promises of an extended cancellation period should be obtained in writing.
To file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office or find out more about canceling a contract visit www.indianaconsumer.com or call 1-800-382-5516.

(May 2012) On Wednesday, May 23, 2012, the Ripley County Sheriff's Office received a complaint of a possible "phone scam".

 

The scam is described as the victim receiving phone calls at their residence with the person calling not stating what company they are with but stating the victim has been approved for a certain credit amount and can refinance anything they are currently in debt for through the individual that called the victim.

 

The call back number obtained from the phone call was called but isn't currently a working number.

 

Please make yourself aware of this scam and be cautious about who you give your personal information to and protect your identity!!!

(May 2012) Don’t be a victim of a rental property scam

An online classified advertisement featuring a great apartment for a “too good to be true” price may not be the perfect match after all.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller warns consumers that scammers are using free classified websites to prey on those looking for an apartment or landlords looking for renters.

Here’s an example of how the rental property scam works: You start emailing with the “owner” of an apartment or house that you would like to rent and the person says the place is yours if you wire money to cover an application fee or security deposit. You wire the money, and then never hear from the “owner” again.

How does this happen? Scammers hijack legitimate listings, change the contact information and then list the modified ads on another site; or they make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist.

If you are an owner with an online ad for an apartment, a “renter” may contact you by email and then send you a check for a deposit. Later the “renter” tells you they want to cancel and needs you to wire the money back. Unfortunately, victims wire the money before noticing the scammer’s check was a fake.

Scammers prefer to use wire transfer companies like Western Union and MoneyGram because it’s like sending cash and they get the money quickly. Typically, there’s no way to reverse a transfer or trace the money, and money wired to another country can be picked up at multiple locations, so it’s almost impossible to identify or track someone down.

To help ensure Western Union isn’t used as a conduit for fraud, they too have released consumer alerts including warnings about the rental property scam. The Attorney General’s Office and the financial services provider offer the following tips for apartment seekers and owners:

  • If the rental price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Research average rental rates for similar properties in the area.
  • If you’re communicating by email, check for common red flags like poor grammar, misspellings, character/spacing mistakes, and excessive capitalization.
  • Most renters want to see the property before they commit; if they don’t, chances are you’re dealing with a scammer. Another red flag is if they have an unusually strong sense of urgency to get you to rent or rent your property to them very early in communications with them.
  • Be cautious when dealing with people who say they currently live overseas or are out of the country on business. Scammers tell victims this to explain why they can’t meet in person. Be cautious also if they prefer to communicate via e-mail only.
  • Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know and trust.
Never agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back. Remember you are responsible for the checks you deposit, so if a check turns out to be a fake, you owe the bank the money you withdrew.

(April 2012) Scams claim to be connected to national mortgage settlement

Thieves are now using the $25 billion national mortgage settlement with the nation’s five largest banks to target homeowners.
In February, Indiana was one of 49 states that joined the federal government’s settlement with Ally, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. The banks will provide relief to distressed borrowers and direct payments to states and the federal government. The agreement stems from the banks’ foreclosure abuses and fraud, and unacceptable nationwide mortgage servicing practices.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller wants you to be aware that scammers are calling consumers and offering to speed up cash payments from the settlement if a bank account routing number is provided. Thieves claim to be from one of the major banks involved in the settlement or even the government.
While no reports of the scam have been made in Indiana, the Attorney General’s Office offers several tips to avoid falling victim:
 

  • Eligible consumers will not have to pay a fee to collect any money from the national mortgage settlement;

  • Scammers may contact you claiming to be from your bank and asking to confirm personal or financial information. Do not release any information to an unsolicited caller;
  • If you think the caller may be legitimate, ask for the person's name and title and tell them you are going to call your bank and confirm. Make sure to use the official contact information for the bank and not a number the caller gives you. Scammers frequently give false contact information and then pretend to be the bank when you call or email; and
  • A bank will never ask for your routing or checking account information over the phone.
For more information about the national mortgage settlement please visit www.in.gov/attorneygeneral or www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com

(April 2012)  Identity thieves file fake tax returns, claim taxpayers’ refunds

Identity thieves are preying on Indiana taxpayers by stealing personal information and filing fraudulent tax returns.
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office has received nearly two dozen complaints regarding tax-refund fraud so far this year and more are expected. Some complaints involve identity thieves even stealing children’s Social Security numbers to file tax returns.
In some cases, thieves have used a legitimate taxpayer’s personal information to obtain a job and the victim is unaware until they discover two returns have been filed using the same Social Security number.

To report tax-refund fraud call the Internal Revenue Service’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit toll-free at 1-800-908-4490 or click
here for more information.
Victims who do file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office will receive educational materials, guidance on filling out the necessary IRS affidavit form and given the appropriate contact information. To learn more or file an identity theft complaint visit www.indianaconsumer.com or call 1.800.382.5516 to request a complaint form.
If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information, do not respond. Instead, forward the message to the IRS at
phishing@irs.gov.
Remember the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.
Consumers can learn how to protect themselves from ID theft by visiting
www.indianaconsumer.com and clicking on “
Identity Theft
.

 

(March 2011) Hoosiers encouraged to be cautious of home improvement scams following storms
Reports of a potential scam artist in Knox County have prompted the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS), Indiana State Police and the Office of the Indiana Attorney General to remind anyone who sustained storm damage during recent severe weather incidents to be cautious of frauds and scams.
“Identity theft and building scams are two schemes con-artists sometimes use to defraud individuals recovering from manmade or natural disasters,” said IDHS Executive Director Joe Wainscott. “While most service providers in the building industry are honest, it is particularly important to be alert after disasters because these situations of widespread damage can attract scam artists and identity thieves.”
Individuals should be especially alert for solicitors who promise to speed up the insurance or building permit process and those who ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.
Some con-artists may even pretend to be employed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or other government agencies.
You can protect yourself from such impersonators and dishonest individuals by following a few precautionary guidelines.
Always
  • Ask for ID. If someone represents themselves as a federal employee, such as an inspector, but does not produce identification, ask to see it. A FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration shirt or jacket is not absolute proof of someone’s affiliation with the government. Federal employees carry official photo identification.
  • FEMA representatives are never allowed to accept money. If someone claiming to be a federal employee or federal contractor attempts to collect money for their help, report the person and their license plate number to your local police department.
  • Safeguard personal information. Never give personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers or credit card numbers to individuals claiming to be affiliated with the federal government. FEMA inspectors never require this information.
When hiring a contractor
  • Research. You may also check with the local Better Business Bureau, homebuilders’ association or trade council to independently confirm the legitimacy of a contractor.
  • Check references. Contractors should be willing to provide names of previous customers. Call several former customers who had similar work done to make sure they were satisfied with the job.
  • Ask for a written estimate and check to make sure it includes all the work you expect to have done, as well as taxes and other fees. Keep in mind that some contractors charge for an estimate.
  • Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics. Take your time. Don’t let the contractor rush your decision.
Before signing a contract
·      Get a written contract. Indiana law requires home improvement contracts exceeding $150 to be in writing. Before signing the contract, make certain it includes:
    • The price of the job
    • Payment schedule
    • A detailed description of the work and materials (including colors, brand names and patterns)
    • Estimated start and completion dates
    • The contractor’s name and address
    • A name and telephone number of the person to contact if problems arise
    • The contractor’s signature
Never pay for the entire project before the work begins. Do not pay more than 1/3 of the total cost as a down payment. Remaining payments should be tied to completion of specified amounts of work.
Hoosiers who believe they may have been a victim of a home improvement scam can file a complaint with the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division. The complaint form is available for downloading at
www.IndianaConsumer.com or call 1-800-382-5516 to request a form by mail.
 

(March 2011) Avoid charity scams - send relief donations to reputable organizations

The shocking images of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan may prompt generous Hoosiers to donate to disaster relief efforts to help the victims. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller urges the public to verify before donating that relief organizations are reputable, so that they aren’t scammed. He suggests researching the website www.CharityNavigator.org to check whether a charity uses donations for intended purposes.

“In the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake last year, Hoosiers reached deep into their wallets to donate and help the victims. But in that outpouring, there were concerns about new and untested relief groups suddenly appearing and soliciting donations online and by email. A few simple precautions will help prevent Hoosiers from being scammed,” Zoeller said. 
Tips for Donating

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office is the state’s consumer protection agency. More information on avoiding charity scams is available on the Attorney General’s website at
www.IndianaConsumer.com.

 

(January 2011) SCAM ALERT: People posing as Department of Child Services workers soliciting donations by phone

Bottomline:
Do not provide any financial or personal information as it may lead to identify theft

The Indiana Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division is warning Hoosiers that a person or group of people is posing as a representative of the Department of Child Services in order to fraudulently solicit charitable donations over the phone. Reports indicate the caller claims that someone in the home committed to a donation a month ago and this is a follow up call to confirm the donation. Some consumers have reported their caller i.d. display shows "Child Services" when the call is received. Government agencies or departments will never solicit charitable donations and these calls are a ploy to steal money, identities or both.
Deputy Attorney General Abigail Kuzma, Director of the Consumer Protection Division, offers these tips:
 

1.     Don't be pressured into making a contribution. Ask the caller for written information on the charitable organization, including the charity's name, address, and telephone number. A legitimate charity should be willing to send you materials outlining the charity's purpose and how your donation will be used. You should check out the charity with some of the independent organizations that provide information on charities. 

2.     Watch out for charities with familiar sounding names. Some charitable organizations use names that are very similar to those of respected organizations. You should check with some of the independent organizations that provide information on charities to make sure you are donating to the correct charity.

3.     Beware of callers who claim endorsement by the state. Under Indiana law, a person who solicits charitable contributions may not use the fact of registration as an endorsement by the State of Indiana.

4.     Be suspicious if a caller thanks you for making a pledge that you didn't make. If you have any doubt about whether you made a pledge, check your records. Beware of invoices claiming you've made a pledge when you know you have not.  Do not share your social security number, bank account number, medicare number or other personal information.

5.     You can cancel a pledge prior to making a contribution. Under Indiana law, a contributor has the right to cancel a pledge for monetary contributions at any time prior to making the contribution.

"Government agencies, including DCS, can not and do not solicit donations ever. If you receive a call from someone saying otherwise, hang up. Scams disguised as charities are especially disheartening because not only do those making a donation lose, so do all the legitimate charities that could have put the money to good use benefiting our communities," Kuzma said. "It's important to ask questions and don’t feel pressured to give. Any legitimate non-profit is going to be happy to provide you with more information about their services and programs so you can make an informed decision about donating."
Victims of scams in Indiana are encouraged to submit a complaint to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division online at www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1-800-382-5516. To reduce the number of unwanted telemarketing calls, sign up for Indiana's Do Not Call list or confirm a number is on the list by visiting www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1-888-834-9969.
 

More resources
To research a particular charitable organization, visit these websites:
American Association of Fundraising Counsel

Association of Fundraising Professionals
Association of Small Foundations
BoardSource
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Council on Foundations
Independent sector
Indiana Grantmakers Alliance
National Center for Family Philanthropy
Philanthropy Roundtable


(September 2010)  Attorney General Greg Zoeller issues a HIGH warning to all Hoosiers of a widespread scam that involves bogus debt collectors who have an alarming amount of personal information about their potential victims – putting consumers at high risk of identity theft and significant financial losses.

According to the reports received by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, the fake debt collectors are impersonating law enforcement officers, lawyers or other official sounding agencies such as the “IRS Collection Service.” The scammers use very aggressive tactics to scare the consumer into paying the alleged debt. They accuse the victim of defaulting on a loan and, in some cases, claim they are about to be sued or even worse – they will tell the consumer they will be arrested and taken to jail if they don’t pay. The victims are pressured into wiring money or providing bank account information to avoid the matter “going to court” or to avoid “jail time.” In many cases, victims are subject to dozens of nasty, abusive phone calls in a matter of hours.

Equally disturbing is the amount of private information these bogus collectors have about their victims, which may include Social Security numbers, home addresses, information about employers, credit references and even old bank account numbers. Potential victims are being asked to verify other private information that could put them at high risk of identity theft.

The con artists likely obtained this sensitive information as a result of previous data breaches. This scam has been reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Trade Commission, however consumers currently remain at risk.

If you get one of these calls DO NOT provide any verifying information. Either hang up or demand that the "debt collector" send verification of the debt in writing. Under federal law, collectors are required to send consumers a written notice within five days of the initial contact. Immediately following the call, you should:

Put a fraud alert on your credit file with all of the major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Because the scammers have obtained Social Security numbers, your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft is extremely high. You will automatically receive a copy of your credit report when you issue the fraud alert. Read it carefully and identify any item that is not yours. Look for new accounts or "hard" inquiries – this indicates credit requests have been made in your name.

Place a FREE security freeze on your credit report to block potential identity thieves from accessing your credit. By placing a security freeze, an ID thief cannot use your information to open new credit accounts in your name. To learn more, go to www.IndianaConsumer.com.

If you believe you’ve been contacted by a fraudulent debt collector you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Indiana Attorney General's Office.
 

(August 2010)  13 Things an Identity Thief Won't Tell You

Former identity thieves have confessed some ways they collect personal information used to steal identities. Attorney General Greg Zoeller is sharing these tactics to help Hoosiers protect themselves against identity theft. (Source: Reader's Digest Magazine).

1. Watch your back in line at the grocery store. I’ll hold my phone like I’m looking at the screen and snap your card as you’re using it. Next thing you know, I’m ordering things online—on your dime.

2. That red flag tells the mail carrier—and me—that you have outgoing mail. And that can mean credit card numbers and checks I can reproduce.

3. Check your bank and credit card balances at least once a week. I can do a lot of damage in the 30 days between statements.

4. In Europe, credit cards have an embedded chip and require a PIN, which makes them a lot harder to hack. Here, I can duplicate the magnetic stripe technology with a $50 machine.

5. If a bill doesn’t show up when it’s supposed to, don’t breathe a sigh of relief. Start to wonder if your mail has been stolen.

6. That’s me driving through your neighborhood at 3 a.m. on trash day. I fill my trunk with bags of garbage from different houses, then sort later.

7. You throw away the darnedest things—preapproved credit card applications, old bills, expired credit cards, checking account deposit slips, and crumpled-up job or loan applications with all your personal information.

8. If you see something that looks like it doesn’t belong on the ATM or sticks out from the card slot, walk away. That’s the skimmer I attached to capture your card information and PIN.

9. Why don’t more of you call 888-5-OPTOUT to stop banks from sending you preapproved credit offers? You’re making it way too easy for me.

10. I use your credit cards all the time, and I never get asked for ID. A helpful hint: I’d never use a credit card with a picture on it.

11. I can call the electric company, pose as you, and say, “Hey, I thought I paid this bill. I can’t remember—did I use my Visa or MasterCard? Can you read me back that number?” I have to be in character, but it’s unbelievable what they’ll tell me.

12. Thanks for using your debit card instead of your credit card. Hackers are constantly breaking into retail databases, and debit cards give me direct access to your banking account.

13. Love that new credit card that showed up in your mailbox. If I can’t talk someone at your bank into activating it (and I usually can), I write down the number and put it back. After you’ve activated the card, I start using it.

Sources: Former identity thieves in Kentucky, Florida, Indiana, Virginia, and New York.

If you believe you’ve been scammed, you can file a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection division online at www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1-800-382-5516.

 

(04/2010)  Attorney General Alerts Consumers to risk of phony health insurance scams

 

(02/2010) The Indiana Attorney General’s Unclaimed Property Program reunites Hoosiers with millions of dollars worth of unclaimed property each year. While unclaimed property locators or "finders" can help reunite you with unclaimed assets, they charge a fee. The Attorney General’s program is free and easy to use - you can search for and claim your money online at www.IndianaUnclaimed.com.  

 Unfortunately there are scammers posing as finders and state government agencies attempting to cash in on your hidden treasure. If you receive unsolicited correspondence requesting personal information or money, it may be a “phishing” expedition. Responding could make you vulnerable to identity theft.

 To check the legitimacy of correspondence regarding unclaimed property, you may contact the Attorney General’s Unclaimed Property Division or you may report scams to the Consumer Protection Division at www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1-800-382-5516.

 

 

Haiti Recovery Scams (01/2010)
When considering making a donation to the Haiti earthquake relief effort, Attorney General Greg Zoeller reminds Hoosiers to be on guard for scams looking to prey on generous intentions.
Three things to remember to avoid Haiti recovery charity scams:
1.Some charitable organizations use names that are very similar to those of respected organizations and may not be charities at all. Make a donation by giving directly to a charity you know and trust.
2.Always pay by check, not cash, and don't feel pressured to make a donation immediately. Ask questions about the charity - legitimate organizations will mail you information about their programs.
3.Be cautious when giving online. Genuine charities do not send unsolicited emails and you should not click on links in spam messages soliciting donations.
For more information about charity scams or to file a complaint, please visit
www.IndianaConsumer.com
 

Secret Shopper Scams  (10/2009) Indianapolis - A new scam is conning even the most skeptical Hoosiers out of thousands of dollars by disguising itself as a legitimate way to make a few extra bucks. Anytime you're asked to wire money from a company after receiving a check should be a warning to people to be cautious...more details

Grandparent Scam (2009)Attorney General Greg Zoeller warns of a telephone scam targeting grandparents. The scam involves someone posing as a grandchild asking for money due to an arrest, car accident or another emergency or they pose as a police officer or lawyer requesting money be wired to help the grandchild. While this is not a new scam, the Attorney General’s Office has received recent complaints of this scam indicating its resurgence.

Lottery Scam (08/2009)-(Kokomo, IN)  The Howard County Sheriff Department is warning area residents of a bogus lottery scam.  Several households have received letters informing them that they have won the shoppers sweepstakes lottery.  A fraudulent check is included in the mailing for $4,785.  The “winners” are instructed to cash the check and transfer $2,875 via Western Union to a tax agent.  Winners are then assured that after the required taxes are paid they will collect additional winnings, which are in excess of $100,000.  People who respond to the telephone number provided on the mailings are informed that their name was selected at random because they shop at one of several major retailers.  "The check is bogus, and once you wire the tax money it’s gone forever, and your on the hook for the bad check,” said Sheriff Marty Talbert.  “It’s all a great big scam perpetrated during hard economic times when folks are vulnerable.”  The mailings are from Fidelity Financial Links, Inc. of Toronto, Canada and the fraudulent check is issued from Genlabs, of Chino, California.  “Genlabs is a legitimate company, and you can locate them on the internet.  One of their company checks has been “washed” to make these fraudulent checks.  I spoke to them by telephone this afternoon.  They are receiving calls from people all across the country who have lost money,” said Sheriff Marty Talbert.  “Remember, you never have to pay money to win money.  Taxes can be deducted from your winnings.”

Lottery Scam (10/10/2009) The Ripley County Sheriff's Office received the following email-  I'm writing to you in order to ask you about a letter I received in the mail today from Fidelity Financial links INC. Enclosed with the letter stating that I was one of 33 winners of the Shoppers Sweepstakes Lottery, it stated that I have won $125,000.00 US dollars. I was concerned about the check for the amount if $4,875.00 which is part of the money that they say that I am suppose to receive.  The check didn't seem right because I saw something like this on the news, so I tried to get to their web site but it didn't show anything about International Claims Department. The  address on the check is Fidelity Financial Links INC.,555 Main Street, Williams Ville,NY,14221.  On the letter it has the address 483 Bay ST. Toronto On M5G-2N7 Canada. The office line that I am suppose to call is 1-416-732-8173, claim number: HP/JFT-0172, I am suppose to contact (Claims/Disbursement Agent) Mr. Jeff Nelson, that's his direct line. It also has Bryon MCLOUD (Promotion Manager) on the letter. The office hours are 9.00 am- 8.00pm ( Mon.-Fri.) and Saturday: 9.00am-5:00pm.

 

Property Deed Scan (06/2009)-What these unscrupulous criminals do is create a fraudulent deed from a sample document, which are easily obtained. Then they record the deed at the local recorder’s office in the county in which the property is located, and the true owner doesn’t have a clue. Then the criminals are able to get a mortgage against the property that they don’t even legally own.  To protect yourself please visit http://www.propertyfraudalert.com/ripleyin.

 

809, 284, 876 Area Code Scams (05/2009)- Be cautious when responding to emails or telephone calls from the 809, 284 or 876 area codes.  Consumers usually receive a message telling them to call a phone number with these area codes in order to collect a prize, find out information about a sick relative, etc.  If you make the return call, it will cause you to inadvertently incur high charges on your phone bill because you calling a phone number outside the U.S.

 

ATM Thefts-Click on this link for a slide show demonstrating the latest ATM Scam.

 

Credit Card Scam-You'll receive a phone call from Visa or Master Card stating they are from the Security and Fraud Department.  They will say "your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase and I am calling to verify the purchase. They will continue to tell you the purchase and claim they will issue a credit to your account.  Here's the IMPORTANT part- The called will then ask you to verify you have the card in your possession and ask you for the last 3 numbers on the back of your card.  He will then use these three numbers to make a purchase.  Never give out this information-tell the caller you will contact your credit card person yourself.  Hang up and call immediately.
 

Email Scams- Phishing is an online type of identity theft.  Criminals create fictitious emails in an attempt to get you to give up personal or financial account information.  These fraudulent emails appear to be from trusted companies, financial institutions and even government agencies.

How to recognize a Phishing Email:

* An email includes scare tactics that lead you to believe clicking on a website link is vital to your continued access to your financial accounts or other services.

* There is a request for sensitive information such as your password, PIN number, social security Number or account number.  A legitimate company will never ask you for this via email.

* The email message may contain misspelled words, poor grammar, or strange formatting.

If you receive a Phishing email: Contact the institution the email claims to represent by phone.  Do not respond to the suspected email or got to any referenced website within the email.  If you visit these types of sites, "spyware" software can automatically be installed on your pc without your knowledge, and personal information can then easily be stolen.

 

These links will take you to the Federal Trade Commission for more information:

 

Telemarketing Scams     Scholarship Scams     Web Scams     Phone Fraud

 

Ripley County Sheriff