By: Tri-State Better Business Bureau
A new local Consumer Fraud Task Force, organized by the Tri-State Better Business Bureau, had its first meeting on September 15, 2015. Attendees at the meeting represented the FTC, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office, Indiana State Police and Evansville Police Department. Several other organizations were invited but unable to attend. At the first meeting participants discussed various scams affecting members of our community. They agreed that the number one fraud occurring right now is the phony IRS collection scheme.
The task force plans to meet quarterly for the purpose of fighting consumer scams and fraud. “It’s a way to share information, tactics, data and figure out a way we can work together so we can help the people who live here,” said Steven Baker, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Midwest region. The FTC is a government agency dedicated to fighting consumer fraud, deception, and unfair or non-competitive business practices.
The Task Force also discussed ideas on how best to warn that segment of our population that seems to be the most targeted by fraudsters, and they are working to initiate and implement ideas to inform area residents about these scams.
Baker, who is based in Chicago, said his office participates in similar task forces in St. Louis, Minneapolis and Chicago and said they are really valuable. He said that scammers have many ways to lure in victims and they operate everywhere — including Evansville.
One well-known ruse is the so-called Nigerian scam. As this scam typically unfolds, a victim receives an email claiming to be a representative of an overseas resident who needs help to transfer a large sum of money. According to Baker, Nigerian scam complaints have actually declined recently, but other types of fraud have grown.
Currently, the top source of current complaints is a tax scam in the category of Imposter Scams. Victims receive a phone call, purportedly from the Internal Revenue Service, informing them that they are subject to arrest unless they immediately pay taxes owed.
One of the agencies participating on this task force is the FBI, and they have a section on their website dedicated to fraud against the elderly. For example, one such scheme involves medical devices that are sometimes telemarketed to seniors where the caller tells their “prospective customer” that they can obtain a medical device at no charge. Some of the warning signs are:
*If you are asked to sign a blank insurance form.
*If you are asked for blanket authorization by a medical provider to bill for services rendered.
For more information on this scam and more, click https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors.
Other common scams:
Sweepstakes scam – A caller claims you’ve won a prize or sweepstakes, but you first need to give the caller money for fees or taxes.
Computer Tech Scam – Someone contacts you and says your computer is infected with spyware or a virus that they can remove for a fee.
Romance fraud – Victim and scammer form an online relationship, and over time the scammer presses the victim to send money to help them out of some kind of trouble.
Scammers often instruct victims to send them money using legitimate companies like MoneyGram or Western Union or by purchasing a prepaid money card and telling them the number on the back of the card.
If you receive a suspicious call, letter, or email, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or 877-382-4357 and your BBB at 812-473-0202. You can also report it on your BBB’s new Scam Tracker at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/evansville/.