Category Archives: Crimes Against Seniors

Utility Scammers Up Their Game

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

In this scam, crooks pretend to represent an electric or gas utility company. They threaten to cut off your utility service unless allegedly overdue bills are paid immediately. And they’re at it again, calling individuals and businesses across North Carolina.

Now they’re taking extra steps to convince you that their call is legitimate by manipulating Caller ID (to make it look like they really are calling from Duke Energy), by transferring you to speak to a “supervisor” during the call, and even by playing music for you while you’re on hold.

Victims are sometimes instructed to send their payment by wire. But increasingly they’re told to deposit money into a specific account, or to put funds on a prepaid debit card or gift card and then call back to provide the card number.

Most people see through the scam, but some don’t. An eastern North Carolina homeowner lost more than $500 recently while a Charlotte resident lost almost $2,000, both via gift cards. A small business in the Triangle area sent more than $1,000 by wire, and another lost $2,200 via prepaid cards.

If you get a call threatening to cut off your power if you don’t pay:

  • Don’t send or transfer any money to the callers.
  • If you believe you may really owe money on your utility bill, hang up and call your utility directly, using a phone number from a recent bill or the company’s website.
  • Remember that real utility companies won’t use these methods to try to collect overdue accounts or cut off your service on such short notice.

If you believe you’ve fallen for a utility cut-off scam, call our office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free in NC or by file a complaint online at ncdoj.gov.

 

Watch Out For Repair Scams After Hurricane

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Hurricane Matthew flooded homes and businesses, ripped off roofs and sent tree through walls and across driveways. Unfortunately, home repair scammers are trying to profit off the damage.

One group approached a senior in Raleigh and tried to pressure him to pay more than $1,500 upfront to remove downed trees. Fortunately his family intervened to stop the scam and report it to our office and local law enforcement.

If you need help fixing or cleaning up your home after Matthew, learn how to find quality contractors and avoid fly-by-night scammers who follow storms.

With all storm repairs:

  • Don’t pay for repairs before the work is done.
  • Avoid doing business with anyone who knocks on your door offering repairs.
  • Always contact your insurance company before getting repairs done.
  • Remember that FEMA does not certify, endorse or approve contractors.

Report storm-related scams to the Attorney General’s Office at ncdoj.gov or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM (919-716-6000 if calling from an out-of-state number). If you suspect that someone who shows up at your home is trying to commit fraud, call local law enforcement immediately.
See below specific tips if you have flood damage, roof damage and downed trees, and get additional tips on storm repairs at our website, ncdoj.gov.

If you have flood damage:

  • Don’t pay in advance for flood repair and cleanup. Scammers who collect upfront payments may set up a fan or remove a wet carpet and then take off before the real work is done.
  • Use licensed experts. Water damage often requires work by licensed electricians, plumbers and other skilled contractors. Check to make sure you’re dealing with someone who is really licensed.
    • For electricians, check ncbeec.org or 919-733-9042
    • For plumbers and HVAC experts, check nclicensing.org or 919-875-3612
    • For general contractors, check nclbgc.org or 919-571-4183
  • Get required permits and inspections. Flood repairs are likely to require permits and inspections by city or county officials. Check with your local government to learn more.

If you have roof damage:

  • Avoid roofers who knock on your door or leave you flyers. Local roofing companies don’t look for work door-to-door, but drive-by roofers often try to drum up business that way. Beware of out-of-town roofers who may take money and then leave town without finishing or even starting the job.
  • Watch out for storm chasers — roofing scammers who visit or call hard-hit neighborhoods after a storm and offer to inspect your roof. These scammers nearly always find that your roof needs to be replaced, even when it doesn’t.
  • Be skeptical of promises of a free roof. Storm chasers claim that they can help get your new roof paid for in full by your homeowner’s insurance policy. These roofers fail to mention that many insurance policies require you to pay a deductible out-of-pocket, and that filing a large claim is likely to make your premiums rise.

If you have downed trees:

  • Never pay upfront for tree removal. Out-of-state tree cutters have been known to collect deposits from entire neighborhoods and then disappear without performing any work. Only pay when the work is done and you are satisfied.
  • Avoid fly-by-night tree removal services that come to town after the storm. Stick with local tree removal companies that are more likely to stay and finish the job.
  • Check out the company with our Consumer Protection Division (1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within NC) and the Better Business Bureau. Ask the company for local references, and look at online reviews.

 

Don’t Get Ripped Off By AC Repairs

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Soaring temperatures mean air conditioners are working overtime. If your AC goes out, it may be tempting to get it fixed as quickly as possible, no matter the cost. But try to keep your cool and do your homework before hiring someone to fix your air conditioning.

Each year, dozens of consumers contact our office to complain about problems with air conditioning and heating repairs. To avoid problems:

  • Get recommendations. Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers who they use for repairs.
  • Check credentials. Contact the Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM and your local Better Business Bureau to learn about the company’s complaint history. To see if the repair person is properly licensed, contact the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors at (919) 875-3612.
  • Get a written contract. Read it carefully before you sign it and make sure it includes all promises made orally. Remember that state law gives you three business days to cancel if you sign a home repair contract at your home rather than at the company’s place of business.
  • Don’t pay upfront, don’t pay until you’re satisfied, and pay by check or credit card—not cash—if possible.

If you experience problems with an air conditioning repair job, call us toll-free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at ncdoj.gov.

To protect yourself from higher temperatures, learn the warning signs of heat-related illness and how to contact your local Department of Social Services for help if you are without a way to cool off.

 

Two Scams in One – Phony Tech Support and Overpayment

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

For years, crooks have charged victims to repair nonexistent problems on their computers in order to gain access to sensitive personal and financial information stored inside. Now they’ve added a new scam: trying to talk you into long-term technical support that is actually just an excuse to swindle you out of as much as $10,000.

It starts when you agree to charge the tech support membership to your credit card. The scammers call back a few days later to say the company is closing and needs your bank account information so they can to refund money directly into your checking account. To get the so-called refund, they take a large cash advance from your own credit card and deposit it into your account. Next, the con artists claim that they’ve accidentally overpaid you by thousands of dollars and need you to wire the extra funds back to them, usually in China, India or the Philippines.

These greedy crooks have been known to take out another credit card advance, put those funds into the victim’s account, and then claim that the first wire transfer didn’t go through. Victims have been convinced this way to send multiple wire transfers to the scammers. One elderly North Carolina woman ran up $10,000 in credit card debt when she fell for this scam.

Remember:

  • Avoid tech support scams. You can learn more about phony tech support from Microsoft and the FTC.
  • Be very skeptical if anyone asks you to wire money overseas. Once you’ve wired money it’s nearly impossible to get it back.
  • If you receive one of these calls, report it to the Attorney General’s Office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or online at www.ncdoj.gov.

Phony Tax Collectors Keep Calling

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

The deadline to file your income taxes has passed, but scammers posing as tax collectors keep calling.

North Carolina consumers are reporting dozens of calls claiming to come from IRS or US Treasury officials who demand immediate payment. The calls include a recorded message that says you owe taxes and threatens a lawsuit or arrest if you don’t pay right away.

Around 500 consumers have reported fraudulent tax collector calls to our office in the past 10 days, with most of the reports coming from area codes 919 and 252.

Remember: legitimate government agencies like the IRS would never demand that you pay taxes using iTunes gift cards, money orders, or wire transfers.

If you get one of these IRS scam calls, please report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint online at ncdoj.gov. Please report:

  • The number the call appears to come from (the number that shows on your Caller ID).
  • The number you’re told to call to pay taxes or fines.

Our office is working with the IRS and telephone companies to try to identify the source of the calls and stop them, and your complaints can help.

Phony State Treasurer’s Inspector Threatens Arrest

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Scammers will sometimes try to frighten you by pretending to be a law enforcement officer or a government employee.  In a recent incident, a man claimed to be an inspector with the State Treasurer’s Office, likely to try to trick someone into giving up their money or personal information.

The scammer was able to manipulate Caller ID to make it look like he was calling from the Treasurer’s Office. He claimed to be inspector “Henry Jordan” and threatened the consumer who answered the call that a warrant would be issued for his wife’s arrest if she didn’t take the call. Fortunately, the man who answered the phone recognized this as a scam and reported it.

Remember:

·         You can’t rely on Caller ID to determine whether or not a call is official.
·         Legitimate law officers and government officials will not call you and threaten to arrest you.
·         If someone calls you and demands money or personal information, hang up and contact the real agency or business at a number you know to be valid.

If you spot a scam, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint online at ncdoj.gov

Look Out For ID Theft This Tax Season

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Tax time is right around the corner, and unfortunately ID thieves know it. Remember to keep your guard up against tax identity theft this year.

Each year, thousands of Americans’ personal information is stolen by thieves who use it to file tax returns and collect large refunds.  In many cases, victims don’t find out about the fraud until their own legitimate tax returns are rejected by the IRS, which says they’ve already processed a return under the same name and social security number.

To avoid tax return ID theft, protect your personal and financial information:

  • Store your social security card in a safe, secure location.
  • Never carry your social security card in your wallet or purse unless you need it that day.
  • Shred old, unneeded documents that include your SSN.
  • Avoid using your SSN online when possible. If you do need to enter your SSN into a website, look for an “https” at the beginning of the web address to ensure security.
  • Limit the odds that a thief will collect your refund by filing your tax return as soon as possible.
  • If you hire a tax preparation service to file your return this year, make sure the preparer is legitimate.

If the IRS tells you that they’ve received your return already this tax season, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, consider placing a fraud alert on your credit reports, and contact the IRS to learn about filing an Identity Theft Affidavit. Taxpayers are often able to work with the IRS to sort out their tax returns and get their refund.

For more information on making sure filing your taxes goes smoothly, take a look at our tax time tips