Weekly AG Newspaper Columns
Beware of these Scams
Beware of these Scams
By Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas
Raising public awareness is an important part of preventing consumer fraud. We issue consumer alerts about the latest scams
as soon as we learn of their existence. Recently, my office has received numerous complaints about the following types of scams.
You should familiarize yourself with them.
One scam involves telemarketers who pose as federal government officials offering grants or other financial assistance. Please
be aware that this is not a valid offer by a federal agency. Real government agents do not call people in their homes and offer
money. The dead giveaway to the scam is that you are asked for a fee up front.
In general, government assistance is only available after completing an application process. For example, assistance for
educational expenses, such as college tuition, generally takes the form of student loans instead of grants. If you are in
need of assistance, contact the appropriate federal or state agency directly.
Another way crooks take advantage of consumers involves telemarketers perpetrating an advance fee loan scam by using the
name of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The scammers call consumers with poor credit records and provide a fictitious
BBB telephone number. The people who answer the phone falsely claim to work for the BBB and give a favorable report on the
business in question.
"Phishing" is an Internet scam that uses e-mail to deceive consumers into disclosing their credit card numbers, bank account
information, Social Security numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information. These e-mails appear to be from reputable
companies, but they are not. Don't be fooled!
Legitimate companies work hard to provide security and privacy. They do NOT contact customers to solicit "updates" on their
financial and personal information. If you receive a solicitation like this, contact the company yourself by telephone - do
not use links or mailers provided in the e-mail you received. The real company will probably want you to forward the message
you received to its security department.
The counterfeit cashier's check scam involves sales of major items by individuals, often over the Internet. The seller is
approached by a buyer or a person claiming to represent a buyer. The seller is told that the buyer can only send a cashier's
check for an amount greater than the value of the purchase. The seller is asked to send the difference to the buyer. Later,
it turns out that the cashier's check is counterfeit.
To protect yourself, simply DO NOT accept a cashier's check for an amount in excess of purchase price. And be careful with any
cashier's check: make sure your bank verifies the validity of the check before you deposit it, release the item or give a refund.
Be aware that these counterfeits are very convincing. In some cases, the bank teller has been fooled, and the victim is responsible
for the bogus deposit, in addition to losing the goods or refund.
Bogus lotteries and sweepstakes target senior Texans. The victim is told that he or she has won a fabulous prize. To collect the
cash, the victim must send "fees" and "taxes." Unfortunately, there is no prize. This is theft, pure and simple. Anytime you have
to pay up front to collect a prize, it is a scam.
Unfortunately, it is often not possible to find and prosecute these unscrupulous individuals and businesses. Even when they can be
arrested, the stolen money is likely to be gone. That is why we make prevention such a high priority. You can help spread the word:
don't fall for a common scam.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
Beware of these Scams
Government Grants Scam
• Government officials will not call you to offer grants
• Contact the U.S. Department of Education for valid financial assistance with college, at www.ed.gov or (800) 437-0833
Better Business Bureau Scam
• Don't be fooled by fake BBB contact information
• Contact the real BBB at www.bbb.org
Phony Lottery and Sweepstakes
• You did NOT win millions in a foreign lottery
• You do NOT have to pay "fees" and "taxes" to collect a real prize
• Legitimate companies do not use the internet to ask you to "update" or "verify" your personal financial or account information
Counterfeit Cashier's Checks
• Do not send money to anyone who pays more than the asking price by cashier's check
• Beware: Bank tellers have been fooled by this scam
Sign up for consumer alerts in the E-mail Notifications Section of our Web site at www.oag.state.tx.usBeware of these Scams
Information on this and other topics is available on the Attorney General's Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us.