Ken Paxton
Consumer Protection

Don't Fall for the Hot Five

There seems to be no end to the variety of schemes and scams that target Texas consumers, but at the current time, five attempted rip-offs seem to be particularly hot.

Easy Credit. Online or in the classifieds, these ads all promise that you can get a loan no matter how bad your credit rating. The catch? You have to pay a fee up front. Advance fee loans are illegal. Don't send the money! This is not credit repair, it's credit disaster.

Phishing. No matter what they say, when they call or e-mail wanting you to give them your social security, credit card, or bank account number, DON'T DO IT. Not for any reason, no matter who they say they are or why they say they need it. They will steal your identity (and your money).

Nigerian Fraud. Anytime you have to send money to collect a huge windfall, you should STOP in your tracks. The dream of a huge sum of money is very alluring, but the immediate reality is that someone wants to TAKE your money. And they are planning to keep it. This is a rip-off. Do not respond.

Counterfeit Cashier's Checks. It looks like the real thing: a cashier's check drawn on a familiar bank is as good as gold, right? Wrong. The counterfeits in circulation today are very high quality forgeries. They might even fool your bank at first. You don't need to be in the business of cashing people's cashier's checks. Especially not the counterfeit kind.

Bogus Debts. You may receive a threatening letter demanding payment on a debt you never heard of. Don't pay it. There are scammers who will demand payment on totally fictitious debts in the hopes that a few people will be scared into paying. Any legitimate creditor will be able to produce proof that a debt exists in the first place. Of course, if the debt turns out to be real and you weren't aware of it, you may be the victim of ID theft.

Read about these and other scams on our consumer protection pages. Stay informed and avoid the traps.

ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.