SCAMS

Check Fraud and Overpayment Scams:

Check scams come in many forms. OCP's scambusters have reported several from the field. One involved a fake letter from Publisher's Clearing House including a check to cover fees for the million-dollar sweepstakes win.  A second involved a " secret shopper " scam which included the first "paycheck."   The first check was written on the payroll account of a social services organization in NY.  The second check was likely a fraudulent account altogether. The third scam busted is the “overpayment scam” in employment .  A recent graduate reported receiving an invitation for an interview via Google Hangout. The identity of the alleged employer and interviewer were easily found online and seemed legitimate. However, the interview seemed a little too easy and the job was offered after a brief hold.  The candidate never needed to come to an office, and the work would be performed at home.  The company offered to mail the new hire a check to cover the expense of software he would need for his data entry work.  The check arrived, with specific instructions to immediately deposit it and provide a copy of the deposit slip (and hence containing the account number) to the new employer. The check, however, was made on an account not belonging to this well-known company.  The scambuster called the payor on the check and learned that its payroll account had been hacked.  The final example reported by our Scambusters involved pet sitting. Scammers can either "scrape" names of pet sitters from third-party provider databases, or find them through online platforms like Craigslist or local listservs.  They'll pose as a family moving into town , needing a large amount of hours of pet care, offering money that is too good to be believed, and providing a check or money order (often forged off of another person or business' account) to buy supplies, give a downpayment on services, etc.  Once the check is deposited, they will cancel the transaction and ask for a refund.The overpayment scams come to you through online platforms including Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Indeed, Zip Recruiter, and other similar websites and listservs. A buyer or prospective employer pays by money order or check (even what appears to be a certified check). The scammer, however, likely paid you with a stolen credit card (if using mobile pay), a false checking account, or a valid –but empty—checking account. You deposit the payment and within days it initially clears your bank. But just because a payment has been credited to your account as available, does not mean the money is actually cleared and in your account. Your bank has to further process that transaction by transferring funds from the “payor's” Bank to your account. This can take weeks. During the process, the Federal Reserve (or credit card company) discovers that there is no real money to transfer or that the account was used fraudulently. At this point, the money will be withdrawn from your account. However, in the intervening time, believing the payment has cleared, you have wired or mailed out good money for the “overpayment” or cancelled transaction and given a con artist your account number. These scammers operate in this time gap between fund availability and actual clearance. These scammers also can pose as wealthy individuals who do not have direct access to their accounts and require you to "cash" their checks and forward them to accountants, trustees, bookkeepers, etc.  They can also arrive in the mail unsolicited,  DO NOT CASH or DEPOSIT THEM.   

Energy Scams:

A caller identifying himself as calling from PEPCO warns consumers that their power would be shut off due to unpaid bills.  The scammers fool the Caller ID by making it seem that they are calling from PEPCO.  The caller leaves a toll-free number (currently 1-800-460-6501) or similar.  When the consumer calls that number back, the outgoing message, or the person answering, identifies themselves as PEPCO.  If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a PEPCO representative about a bill that does not sound familiar and threatening to shut off your power, hang up and  call  PEPCO directly at the number that appears on your monthly bill to see if the call was legitimate.  Do NOT call the number they give you. Recently, this call has morphed into an offer of a discount on your bill if you connect a credit card to your account.  This is a scam to get credit and debit card numbers.  Finally, consumers report door-to-door vendors claiming to be PEPCO but may not be.  In fact, PEPCO issued a  press release about scammers contacting consumers about alleged delinquent accounts.  The scammers seek payment by pre-paid debit cards Police warned

Similarly, door-to-door salesman will identify themselves as working for your energy supplier, ask to see a bill, and offer discounts and better deals.  Your account information is on your bill and you may be slammed into unwanted contracts with a different energy supplier (without your knowledge or consent).  Since PEPCO would still service the bill, you might not even know your supplier has been switched. Consumers report aggressive sales tactics where the salesperson refuses to leave until they see a bill so they can "check off" your name from their list.  Do not show them your bill and shut the door.  

Social Security Phone Scam:

If you get a call that looks like it’s from the Social Security Administration, think twice. Scammers are spoofing SSA’s 1-800 customer service number to try to get your personal information or to get you to send your money in for safekeeping. Spoofing means that scammers can call from anywhere, but they make your caller ID show a different number – often one that looks legit. Here are few things you should know about these so-called SSA calls: https://go.usa.gov/xPEhxThe FTC has an audio recording of such a call. 

Hot Package/Shipping Fraud

“Hot package” scams are on the rise. Consumers, possibly victims of data breaches, are having their information used to set up new accounts, purchase cell phones, computer equipment, etc., have these items shipped to their homes, and picked up by dedicated "porch pirates" before the consumer is even aware. This results in a purchase record in the victim's name, a delivery confirmation to the victim's address, and debt for items never ordered. Even if you set up a credit freezes with the Big 3 credit reporting agencies, it would NOT freeze your credit with telecommunication accounts. Those accounts are served by the  National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange

Medicare/DNA Test Scam:

Do it yourself DNA test kits are growing ever more popular. But a new scam is using these kits as means of stealing Medicare and other personal information. These scammers may approach you by phone, at your door, or even at health or community fairs. How does the scam work? First, the scammers offer genetic testing cheek swabs as a ploy to get victims’ Medicare or health insurance information, promising the cost of the test will be covered. But instead, the scammers use the consumers’ personal details to steal their identities. The scammers “can now bill Medicare thousands of dollars for medically unnecessary tests or even services that you never received,” according to the Oregon Attorney General.

Woodchuck/Unlicensed Contractors Alert:

OCP warned about this type of unlicensed contractor scam during  National Consumer Protection Week 2018.  You can learn more about these scams:  Read More ...

Scam Rentals:

Rental customers should be aware that scam listings can be found online. These could either be hijacked ads for real  rental units but directed to a wrong telephone number, rental ads for property that is owned by another, or where there is no rental unit in the first place. Red flags are (1) where the landlord or agent will not meet you in person, (2) rush you into signing a lease and paying a deposit without seeing the property, (3) insist on using difficult to trace forms of payment, e.g., wiring money, or (4) the rent price seems too good to be true. The scammers are after your deposit and all the personal information that you are asked to disclose in the lease agreement.

County Telephone Scam :

Montgomery County Government informed residents about a telephone spoofing scam that is taking place in our area. Several County residents have reported receiving calls from scammers who are fraudulently using County telephone numbers (240-773-xxxx and 240-777-xxxx).  The OCP has received similar complaints from consumers who state that the call is a recorded sales pitch or an effort to collect on non-existent student loans. Please know that county staff will leave a message stating the reason for their call.  If you receive a scam call from a County telephone number, please report it to MC311 by dialing 3-1-1- or by visiting  MC311.com .

Water Quality Scam:

The water filter scam comes in many variations.  With the increased concern over the tap water purity, county residents have reported various entities offering to test your water.  These scammers pose as the Environmental Protection Agency conducting surveys, as  authorized WSSC   representatives, or simply are unnamed companies providing a “free” service to residents.  The EPA is concerned that those posing as the EPA may be focusing on Spanish-speaking communities.  These scammers come door-to-door and conduct “tests” in your living room which purport to show you how your water is contaminated.  They may even leave vials at your door with  notes   on how to have your water tested later.  To obtain information about the EPA’s drinking water regulations and general information about drinking water, you may contact the  EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline.

Equifax Data Breach:

​With the breach of at least 143 million American consumers' sensitive data, hackers now have access to names, SSN, DOBs, addresses as well as some driver's license and credit card account numbers.  The  Consumer Finance Protection Bureau  has good information on what identity theft is and what signs to look for to see if you have been victimized.  The  Federal Trade Commission provides details on what you can do to protect yourself from identity theft in the wake of this breach.  Beware of a  phone scam where criminals call  you pretending to be Equifax.  Equifax is not calling 143 million people regarding the breach or credit monitoring plans.

Medicare Card Phone Scams

With new Medicare cards coming starting in April 2018, new phone scams are expected. In fact, starting in February 2018, authorities have reported scam calls from "MEDICARE" stating that a temporary card needs to be ordered for a $5-$50 fee.  However, CMS states that the new card will automatically come to you and that MEDICARE will not call you.