Reghan Winkler: Top 5 scams in the Lima region in 2021
In an interconnected world dependent on the Internet, the methods and reasons used by fraudsters to deceive people are constantly changing. Scammers monitor the news to take advantage of the chaos and current information that can be effective in convincing people to part with their money or vital information. The COVID pandemic, widespread unemployment, the increase in online shopping are just a few examples.
If you add these situations above to historically trusted Medicare / Social Security scams, bogus sweepstakes / lotteries, and bogus charity scams, you’ll get the top five scams of 2021.
1. The unemployment scam – In what is described as the most massive scam opportunity ever, scammers have rushed to exploit the Federal Unemployment Pandemic Assistance (PUA) program. By using bots to file bogus unemployment claims on behalf of real people, fraudsters were able to steal an estimated $ 200 billion from the government program. People who never filed for unemployment received letters telling them that their PUA benefits were expiring. The identities of these people were stolen, and the documents filed also caused serious tax liability issues for those compromised.
We are still getting a lot of calls regarding this scam. If you may have been the victim of the scam, go to the Ohio Department of Employment and Family hotline at 833-658-0394 or online at unemployment.ohio.gov and press “Report Identity Theft” button to report fraud.
2. Social security / Medicare scams – In these scams, victims receive a scary phone call or email claiming to be from Social Security Administration or Medicare stating that there has been suspicious activity on the victim’s account. Victims are told that unless they provide personal information or credit card numbers for the payment of fines, penalties or fees, their account will be suspended.
If you receive any of these scam calls or emails, do not give out any information. Hang up immediately. If you receive a call regarding Social Security, contact the Office of the Inspector General of Social Security online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.
3. Amazon scam – An “erroneous charge” of $ 499 on a victim’s account would be “detected by Amazon”. In trying to “credit the account” $ 499, $ 3,499 was credited instead. To rectify the “mistake,” the fake Amazon rep said the victim would have to buy $ 3,000 in CVS gift cards and relay the numbers on the back.
Keep in mind: Amazon never asks you to disclose or verify sensitive personal information or offer you a refund that you don’t expect.
4. Sweepstakes / lotteries scam – Often known as the Publishers Clearing House (PCH) scam, victims receive a phone call or email claiming they were the lucky winners of the PCH, or other raffle or lottery. In order to collect their winnings, victims are told that they have to pay an upfront fee in the form of prepaid debit cards or MoneyGram.
Remember, if you didn’t participate, you can’t win it! Don’t buy the Cards or MoneyGram!
5. Pop-up charity scams – Disasters, veterans, and vacations are all reasons Americans generously donate their hard-earned dollars to help those in need. Unfortunately, these reasons are also exploited by crooks who create bogus âpop upâ charities to take advantage of well-meaning donors. They mimic real nonprofits by using direct mail, email, and telemarketing tactics to defraud the generous-minded.
Make sure your donations go to legitimate causes by checking with watchdogs like the Better Business Bureau’s Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and Wise Giving Alliance. Also pay attention to the charity’s name and web addresses. Scammers often imitate the names of familiar and trusted organizations to deceive donors.
These were the top five scams in our region in 2021, but this article is only scratching the surface. Call us at BBB if you come across a situation that you think is suspicious. We can help you!
Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB can be found on the Internet at bbb.org/us/oh/lima.