Would You Fall for This Scam?
You can't trust the mail, your e-mail or even your Caller ID
The phone rings and the caller says she's from your bank. There's a problem with your account they're trying to straighten out -- it looks like someone has stolen your identity.
You can see on your Caller ID that it is, in fact, your local bank branch.
If you can just verify that you're the account holder by giving them your Social Security number, they'll delete all the fraudulent charges.
Do you do it?
Everyone knows not to send money to people who email us from Nigeria, but scams have become so sophisticated even the most wary might be taken in by one.
In this case, you can't trust that the call is coming from your bank -- or from the police department or wherever your caller ID says.
"Spoofing" -- a way of rerouting calls through the Internet so phony numbers show up on caller IDs -- is the new big thing in scams.
"There are plenty of ways out there to spoof numbers," Detective Lt. John Janowksi said. "There are even spoofing apps for smart phones."
Combine them with payday loan scams and plenty of people have been fooled; even the FBI has posted warnings.
You'll get a call from someone claiming to be from a law enforcement agency, saying you are delinquent in repaying a payday loan and will be charged with a crime if you don't settle up -- right now.
"The callers threaten victims with legal actions, arrests, and in some cases physical violence if they refuse to pay," an FBI news release says.
That has been reported once so far in Strongsville. A woman said this summer she got such a call, and the number that showed on her caller ID up belonged to the Strongsville Police Department.
Scams are going strong, whether by phone, by mail and through the Internet:
• A Strongsville woman got a collection notice in the mail from an alleged collection agency, saying they were willing to accept a settlement of $44.56 on a balance of $89.11 on behalf of Commerce Energy.
When she called the agency, they wanted the last four digits of her Social Security number.
• In a different version of Payday Loan scams, a man told police Sept. 14 that Payday Loans took money out of his account -- and he has never even dealt with the company.
Another man reported in March that he was told he had a balance of $496 on a cash advance he had actually paid off.
And a woman told police in early September that a caller wanted her to go to Walmart to send money for a loan she had allegedly taken -- but didn't.
Some can be traced to Internet fraud, Janowski said. Criminals apply online for a cash advance using someone else's information.
When the loans aren't repaid, the company turns them over to a collection agency, which then calls the victims and demands payment.
• Someone called a restaurant shortly before Christmas and placed a large order for food platters, putting $2,190 on a credit card to cover the food and extra costs, and asked the restaurant to wire back any overage.
The owner sent back $1,000 -- then found out the credit card account was fraudulent.
It's a theme on a common overpayment scam. You're selling something on Craigslist and a buyer sends you a check for way more than the price you're asking.
They claim it's a mistake and ask you to send back the extra. You send money from your own account, and then your bank reports the buyer's check was fake.
"Nobody sends that kind of extra money," Janowski said.
• Also common are sweepstakes scams in which residents are told they've won a $2.5 million sweepstakes and have to pay taxes or handling fees before they can claim the jackpot.
In one case this year, a couple lost $380 before getting suspicious and reporting the call to police.
"We get these (reports) all the time," Janowski said. "People still fall for it."
The caller instructed them to go to go to Walmart and buy three Money Paks -- a type of pre-paid credit card -- for $380, $500 and $1,500.
They did. When the man called back, they gave him the number for the $380 card. They then got suspicious and called police before giving him the others.
• Internal Revenue Service warned taxpayers about an email scam about electronic federal tax payments.
The bogus email says tax payments made by the email recipients through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System have been rejected and directs them to a bogus link that downloads malicious software that infects the victim’s computer.
The scammer then uses this personal and financial information to commit identity theft.
• In March, a Pearl Road grandma received a call from someone who said he was her grandson and in trouble in another country.
The woman sent $2,500 to help him out.
It's a common scam -- at least three Strongsville residents have fallen victim to it in the last year.
Always think twice before sending money to anyone, especially via Western Union or other quick-transfer means, authorities say.
And never give out personal information, even to someone who seems legitimate.
"Any time they ask for a Social Security number, that's a problem," Janowski said. "If they're who they say they are, they should have that informtion."