COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - As advancement in technology continues, crooks continue to come up with clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. 11 News anchor Katie Pelton teamed up alongside former 11 News anchor Betty Sexton to provide a look back at the top 11 scams of 2017.
From fighting back against scammers with helpful information to warning signs everyone should be on the lookout for, Katie and Betty hope to prepare the average person for the evolving crimes carried out by scammers.
The Western Union Jamaican Lottery Scam
If you've ever been defrauded and unknowingly wired money to a crook via Western Union in the past 13 years, there is now a way you can get some of your money back. Western Union has agreed to pay back $586 million, click here to file a claim.
Publishers Clearing House Scam
Victims targeted by the Publishers Clearing House Scam were told they were a big winner. The actual Publishers Clearing House never tips off winners, they always show up unannounced at the winner's doorstep.
The United States Postal Inspection Service is tracking this particular scam closely. Click here for more information on the fake Publishers Clearing House scam from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/07/fake-publishers-clearing-house-scams
Gift Card Scam
Crooks are now using gift cards as currency. One Colorado Springs woman nearly lost hundreds of dollars in this scam, but thanks to a local store clerk, the woman targeted by scammers was able to avoid falling prey. Criminals have been asking for payment for services or goods in the form of gift cards, because they're hard to track and nearly impossible to get back. Be extra cautious when trading and buying goods from individuals over the internet or phone.
A popular scheme that targets grandparents over the phone tries to trick folks into thinking their family members are in jail. The scammer tries to convince people a loved one is in jail, and the only way they can bail them out is by wiring money or delivering gift cards. The crooks try to pull on your heat strings, and sometimes even go as far as providing a badge number or local officer's name. A good way to stump these crooks, ask questions only a family member would know.
The IRS Scam
One of the most popular scams of 2017, the IRS scam. Crooks impersonate the IRS and claim you owe money and threaten if you don't pay up. They try to scare you into thinking you could face a lawsuit, be thrown in jail or have your property taken away. More than 12,000 people have been tricked, with about 270 victims in Colorado losing close to $1.3 million. The IRS never collects funds using gift cards or other forms of payment. If you get one of these calls, you can report it at 1-800-366-4484. If you believe you do owe the IRS money, call your local office directly at (719)-226-3300.
Jury Duty Scam
The jury duty scam is very similar to the IRS scam, however crooks even use a spoof caller ID system, making it appear as though the number they are calling from is local. They go as far as using an actual name of an employee when identifying themselves. The caller claims you missed jury duty and now you owe money. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has even put out notices of these scams, stating people are impersonating law enforcement officials. Just remember the El Paso County Sheriff's Office doesn't handle jury duty, the jury commissioner does. But, neither department will ever threaten you or force you to pay if you don’t show up. The media spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office says if you get a call like this, hang up and report it to their dispatch at (719) 390-5555.
Some scams aren't as obvious as others. Criminals are using devices called skimmers. A skimmer can be attached to a gas station pump or ATM, usually hidden well so that unsuspecting victims don't even know they just had their credit card information stolen. Detective Wayne Lambert with the Colorado Springs Police Department recommends the public take a close look at credit card readers. Give them a good tug to make sure there hasn't been anything attached. When you go to punch in your pin, use one hand to cover up those numbers so someone can't see what you're putting in. Another good tip, continually monitor your credit card statements.
Computer Scam Story
A lot of people turn to the internet looking for help when their computer breaks down. Unfortunately, scammers use the internet to their advantage all too often. One local man had recently broke his printer, and wound up in the hands of a crook trying to get it fixed. He was tricked into buying thousands of dollars worth of gift cards, a form of currency a legitimate company will never ask for as payment. Some scammers even gain remote control of your computer, making it seem like they can be trusted. They claim to be with Microsoft, Apple or other computer-related companies. Callers say they've "detected a virus" and offer to help for a hefty price. Never give remote control of your computer to a stranger, or call numbers that come out of nowhere on your screen. Call the manufacturer of your computer directly or turn to a trusted repair outlet.
Some scammers use our four-legged friends to take advantage of people. Be careful when searching for a pet online and do your homework. Scam artists have bilked animal lovers by posting ads with pictures of puppies and other pets. The ads often include a compelling story about why the puppy is available, and details about his or her lovable personality. The ads may request a reasonable payment for the pet, say $300, or they may claim the pet is available to a good home for free – if you pay for shipping.
If you pay, you’ll get additional requests for money for things like vet bills, crating, shipping, or inspection costs. But when it’s all said and spent, Lassie never comes home – because she wasn’t really for sale in the first place.
The FTC received nearly 40,000 complaints about this type of scam, most of them revolving around the sale of puppies.
A case Betty Sexton will never forget about that dates back to 2010. It took close to seven years, but local residents finally got justice CLICK HERE TO LEARN MOREafter a contractor pleaded guilty to five felony theft charges in 2017. Bowen's victims told 11 News anchor Betty Sexton they signed contracts with him, handed him their insurance checks, and then waited for roofs that he promised to install -- but never did.
Another example of when you should do your homework, and only contact work through reputable companies.
Can You Hear Me Now Scam
Many people received a call that sparked nationwide concern. Can you hear me now? The caller asks a series of questions, or introduces themselves and then asks, "can you hear me now?" The call caught a lot of people off guard, making them wonder if they answered yes could they be a target of identity theft. Former 11 News Anchor Betty Sexton checked with a number of her contacts at the FTC, and they say they have yet to hear of one victim of this kind of call.
Here’s what to do according to the FTC if you get a call from someone you don’t recognize asking, “Can you hear me?”:
-Don’t respond, just hang up. If you get a call, don't press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other number to be removed from the list. If you respond in any way, it will probably just lead to more robocalls – and they’re likely to be scams.
-Contact your phone provider. Ask your phone provider what services they provide to block unwanted calls.
-Put your phone number on the Do Not Call registry. Access the registry online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. Callers who don’t respect the Do Not Call rules are more likely to be crooks.
-File a complaint with the FTC. Report the experience online or call 1-877-382-4357.