Scams

Loan Scams
Consumers who have poor credit and are seeking loans should be careful not to fall victim to an advance fee loan scam.

Avoiding Foreclosure Scams
Scammers, predatory lenders and other con artists keep their eyes open so they can prey on homeowners in trouble. Here’s what to look out for…

How do I know if I am really a contest winner?
Dear Consumer Ed: After filling out a feedback form about a fast food restaurant, I received a call saying that I had won a contest. I was asked to provide a faxed form, signed and notarized, along with my Social Security number for tax purposes. Does that sound legitimate?

Is loan offer a scam?
Dear Consumer Ed:  This supposed lending club is offering to loan me $5,000, but they say that since my credit isn’t great, they need to verify my intention to pay by a means I find suspicious. They say they will pay off my credit card balance of $850.00, then I am supposed to go to a nearby store and make a purchase in the same amount. After I do that they say they will lend me the loan money by depositing the $5,000 into my checking account. This makes no sense to me, but if it is a scam, how would they benefit?  I have already given them my credit card information. What do you advise?

Mystery Shopper Scam
Dear Consumer Ed:  After taking an online survey, I received an offer for a mystery shopper job.  I completed a brief online training and I was sent a check for $1,300 to start work.  The first job was to evaluate a wire transfer service by sending a $1,000 money transfer and then answering some questions about the experience. They said I could keep the remaining $300 as my fee.  They even said I should wait a week before making the transfer to allow the check to clear first, but it still sounds fishy to me.  What do you think?

Beware of roofers scamming storm victims
Dear Consumer Ed:  My roof was damaged during a recent storm.  A roofer came to my door and, after looking at my roof, offered to replace it for $20,000. He said the company would pay my insurance deductible if I agreed to let them put a sign in my yard with their company name on it. The price seems high, but they said my insurance would cover all of it.  Do you think this is on the level?

The Latest Twist on Tech Support Scams or How to Lose $3,000
You may have already heard about the computer technical support scam where someone impersonating a Microsoft technician calls and says there's something wrong with your computer and that they can fix it for a payment of a few hundred dollars.

I'm getting past due notices for a product I never ordered
Dear Consumer Ed:  I keep on getting past due letters for a product I never ordered.  I've tried to explain the error to the company, but I never get responses; I only get past due notices with additional fees. What should I do?

Work-from-home jobs: real or scam?
Dear Consumer Ed: I am a college student and I’ve been looking online for part-time work so I can make a little money.  I see work-from-home jobs advertised, but my friend says most of them are scams.  How can I tell if a job posting is legitimate or not? 

How can I determine if a charitable organization is legitimate before I donate?
Dear Consumer Ed: I recently learned of a newly established association that claims to be a worldwide non-profit organization. How can I make sure they are a legitimate non-profit?

Elderly parent conned into purchasing extended vehicle warranty
Dear Consumer Ed: I came across a $395 charge on my 88 year-old father’s Visa card statement.  My father has dementia, and was conned into purchasing an extended warranty on his 2011 vehicle.  My father will be charged $160 per month for the next 18 months.  I have contacted the business directly, but the issue has not been resolved. What can I do, and how can I help prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future?  

How to tell if an online product review is real or fake
Dear Consumer Ed: How can I tell if an online review of a product is real or fake?

Is "free cruise" promotion real or a scam?
Dear Consumer Ed: I am receiving notices in the mail from cruise lines telling me I’ve won a free cruise. The same company is calling me on the phone and leaving messages. I’d love to go on a cruise, but I don’t know how to tell whether these deals are legit.

How do you know if you're donating to a legitimate charity?
Dear Consumer Ed: A man with a bucket approached me at an intersection and said he was collecting money for his church.  I did not give him any money, but how do you know if someone is really representing a legitimate charity or organization?

Emergency Medical Alert Scam
Dear Consumer Ed: I have been receiving automated phone calls saying that I qualify for a free emergency medical alert system. To accept, I'm instructed to press 1; to decline, press 2. When I hit "1" to accept I was asked to provide my bank account information. I was afraid it might be a scam so I hung up. But now I keep getting these calls, even though I have declined the offer numerous times and even asked to be removed from the contact list. What can I do?

Is Walmart gift card text message a scam?
Dear Consumer Ed: I received a text message that says I won a Walmart gift card. How can I tell if this is legitimate?    

"Free" cruise requires hefty fees
Dear Consumer Ed: I received a mailer from a cruise line stating I had won a trip but just had to pay a small fee, which has turned into a big fee. I would like to get my initial money back and not go any further with actually booking the trip. The document I have states “refunds subject to the state law consumer resides in.”  Am I entitled to a refund? 

How can I tell if an online lender is legit?
Dear Consumer Ed: I applied for a $10,000 loan online.  I provided my Social Security Number and bank account information for the credit check. The company wants me to pay $1,200 up front (via wire transfer) to secure the loan.  They have a really good explanation for why they need the money up front, and I really want to send it, but I am afraid it might be a scam. How can I tell if a lender is trustworthy or not? 

Can I get a grant or rebate for doing a home energy audit?
Dear Consumer Ed: I received a call from a company that said I could get a $3,000 federal grant if I had them do an energy audit of my home.  They then requested my social security number and bank account information so they could check my credit rating. I got suspicious and hung up. Do you think this was a scam? Are there really grants or rebates available for doing an energy audit of your home?

Caller ID Spoofing
Dear Consumer Ed: I received a phone call from my gas company about a past due bill. I told them I was current on my account, but they threatened to shut off my service unless I paid the bill immediately by giving them my credit card information.  I was suspicious, but my caller ID indicated that the call was, in fact, from my gas provider. I said I would have to check my records and get back to them. When I called back, they said my account was paid up and that no one from the billing department had called me. What do you make of this?

Credit Repair Company Made False Promises
Dear Consumer Ed: I saw a sign on a telephone pole that promised to erase my bad credit.  I contacted the company and paid them $100.00. The only thing they are doing is writing letters for me to the credit reporting agencies. None of my debt has been erased or reduced, and my credit score has not improved. Can I get my money back?

Choosing a reputable charity
Dear Consumer Ed: How do I know whether the money I am donating to a charity actually goes to the people I want to help?

Credit Card Scam
Dear Consumer Ed: I received a call from someone claiming to be from the fraud department of my credit card company.  They already had my name, address, and credit card number, so I assumed the call was legitimate.  They told me my card had been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern and asked me to give them the 3-digit security code on the back of my card to verify that I was in possession of my card. Now I’m questioning whether that caller was actually scamming me.

Door-to-door magazine sales
Dear Consumer Ed: A teenage girl came to my door selling magazine subscriptions. She said she lived in the neighborhood and was trying to raise money for college tuition. I wrote the magazine company a check for $83 for three subscriptions. Eight weeks later, I still have not received any magazines, although my check was cashed. When I called the company, I got a recording saying, “This number is not available for incoming calls.” How can I report this company and get my money back?

Guaranteed government grants
Dear Consumer Ed: I received a call from a company that said it could guarantee me a government grant within 3 months. They asked for an up-front fee of $2500 for writing the grant applications. I paid the money and now I am worried that I might have been scammed. What do you think?

Is money going to sweepstakes scammers?
Dear Consumer Ed: I’m worried about my 84 year-old aunt.  I was at her house and noticed she had a box of sweepstakes and lottery letters on her kitchen table.  She insists she is not playing the lottery, but I’m concerned that she is sending what little money she has to strangers.  What should I do?

Network marketing programs
Dear Consumer Ed: I was approached after church by a friend to join a network marketing program. I’m told I can make a lot of money if I work hard at it. My only concern is that I have to pay $75.00 up front to join. Is this legitimate?

Received notice about unclaimed money
Dear Consumer Ed: I just received an “Unclaimed Property Due Diligence Notification” letter. According to the letter, five years ago some company supposedly issued me a $72.00 check that I never claimed. In order to get the money, I have to send them either a copy of my driver’s license, social security card or utility bill. I would like to collect my money, but I’m nervous about sending out personal information like this. Is this letter legitimate or is someone trying to steal my identity?

Vacation rental ad sounds too good to be true
Dear Consumer Ed: I have read several offers for vacation rentals on the Internet that appear to be too good to be true. What should I look out for?

Work-at-Home Jobs
Dear Consumer Ed: My unemployment insurance is about to run out.  I keep seeing these on-line job offers where you can make a lot of money working from home.  They ask you to pay a fee for training and certification.  How can I make sure I am not wasting my time and money?