June 18 • 11:05 AM

Not David Letterman's Top Ten List

Law enforcement, financial officials warn of top scams

December 10, 2008
Oh, ya' better watch out!

Ya' better be shy!

Cause it's the time of year

that scammers will try

to pick the peoples' pockets in town...

Sad but true. Scammers know no season and area law enforcement officials and financial institutions want to make sure local folks don't have a blue Christmas.

The following list was compiled by the Lapeer Financial Institution Alert Team. It includes the top 10 scams that are circulating in the community and across the nation. The list came at the suggestion of Detective Sgt. Mark Reaves of the Michigan State Police post in Lapeer. LFIAT members were asked to submit the latest scam trends they're encountering in order to keep area residents from becoming victims.

It makes for some interesting reading, indeed. It's amazing what people will do for a quick buck. But LFIAT member Carol Ugorowski, operations and security officer at Lapeer County Bank & Trust says it all comes down to this: "If it sounds too good to be true, it is!"

•Lottery, sweepstakes, Publishers Clearing House scam: You get a letter or e-mail stating that you won a lot of money in a lottery or sweepstake. There's also a check, an "advance" on the winnings to help cover the taxes/fees. You're asked to cash the check wire the so-called taxes/fees back in order to collect the winnings. Of course the check is returned by the financial institution and sadly you are out the money.

•Job scams: Secret Shopper, Mystery Shopper or Shadow Shopper Job scams: You respond to a newspaper want ad, an online job site, in an e-mail solicitation, or through a letter that was mailed to you in hopes of getting what seems to be an easy job. You are supposed to evaluate the level of service you receive at different local merchants. They send you a check to make some purchases. They state how much money from the check will be your pay for the job. One of your job duties will be to wire cash out to a person that they specify—you will say it is your relative— from a local store (usually Wal-Mart) to evaluate their MoneyGram service. The check is returned "counterfeit" after you wired the money. You are out the money.

•Financial assistant job scam: You respond to a job offer where you are going to work from home as a local representative to handle payments in the United States for a company located in another country. You will be sent checks from people in the U.S. who owe payments to your new employer. You deposit the checks in your bank account. You get to keep a percentage as your pay. You wire the money to a person, usually out of the country. The checks are returned "counterfeit" and you are out the money.

•Selling overpayment scam: You are selling something on eBay, Craig's list, in the newspaper, etc. You are contacted by someone who wants to buy. They send you a check for payment that is higher than the selling price. The buyer has a story as to why the check was too much (i.e. they made a mistake; someone owed them money and they had them send their check to you). The buyer requests that you wire the difference back to them. You cash the check and wire the money. Later the check is returned "counterfeit" and you are out the money.

Other red flags when you are selling:

· Buyer rushes you to accept a cashier's check late in the evening or during the weekend. The check is counterfeit.

· Buyer wants to deal via the internet and not by telephone or the buyer is not willing to disclose their address.

· Buyer gives you a phone number, address or email in the U.S., but later you find out they are fictitious and the buyer's real location is out of the country.

•Purchasing scam: You are purchasing a used vehicle on Craig's List. The vehicle is offered at a good price, less than the true value, and the seller has a story to explain it. The seller tells you the arrangements for the shipping of the vehicle through a company called DAS (Dependable Auto Shippers) where his bother-in-law works so it will cost nothing to ship it. The seller also tells you to wire your payment of cash through MoneyGram to a representative's name at

Pivotal Payments who will hold the funds, notify the seller that they've been received. The seller will ship the car to you to inspect and decide whether to keep or not, then you contact Pivotal Payments to release the funds. You wire the money, never get the car, and Pivotal Payments and DAS have no record of the transaction.

•Dating scam: You meet scammers on an internet dating site or are contacted by email from someone in a foreign country. After corresponding with the scammer for some time, you become convinced that the scammer is in love with you and they want to come to the U.S. to meet you, or they need a new computer to continue corresponding. Scammer sends you a check and asks you to cash it for them and wire the money to them to pay for their travel costs or to pay for a new computer. The check is counterfeit.

•Asking for your help type scams: You receive an e-mail or letter with some story. Many of these letters are confusing since they have bad grammar and are usually from a foreign country. They ask for your help. You are mailed or sent by overnight delivery one or more checks which look real but are counterfeit or stolen. They may look like real travelers checks, U.S. Postal money orders, cashier's checks, official checks but they are counterfeit. You are told that you get to keep a percentage of the money. You deposit the checks and then wire cash by Western Union or Money Gram to a name they give you. The checks are returned "counterfeit" after you have wired out the cash and you are out the money. Other versions of the scam ask for your personal information.

•Bank phone call scam: You receive a random phone call. The caller says they are "with the bank," not identifying any particular financial institution. Then they have a story and ask you for your account number or personal information. One story is that your account will be frozen until they verify your bank account number. Your financial institution would never make a phone call asking for your account number or personal information.

•Jury duty phone call scam: You receive a call from an officer of the court saying that you missed jury duty. If you don't give them your Social Security number, driver's license number or some other personal information they ask for, an arrest warrant will be issued for you.

•Family member is hurt phone call scam: Caller tells you that your family member has been in an accident. They need money for property damage. They may even convince you that you have spoken to your hurt relative on the phone. You have to wire money out by Western Union or MoneyGram to the caller.

• "Consumers Power Co." phone call scam: You receive a call regarding non-payment of your bill. They say if you do not give them your bank account number and other personal information that they will shut off your power.

Remember there are many different versions of all of these scams. The crooks constantly add new twists and turns in an effort to make them seem legit.

Consumers are advised to delete suspicious email messages without opening them, and toss out phony letters and checks without responding.

And again, it all boils down to this: "If it's too good to be true, it is!"

Castle Creek
06 - 18 - 19
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