Date: January 16, 2019
Media contact: Miranda Pomiecko: (216) 698-2546; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs Warns Residents of New Round of Impostor Scams
CLEVELAND – The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs is warning residents about a new round of impostor scams impersonating County Sheriff’s deputies or court officials.
Arrest and court scams were the most-complained about category of scams reported to the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs in 2018.
Over the weekend, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department received multiple complaints about impostor calls in which scammers identified themselves as deputies. When a Sheriff’s Department employee dialed one number reported by a resident, the scammer answered by saying, “Cuyahoga County Sheriff.”
In these scams, callers posing as police or court officials tell potential victims they missed a court date and threaten them with immediate arrest or account seizure unless they pay a fine. Some scammers may initially tell people to go to the Justice Center to pay, but when victims call back as instructed, they ultimately are told to pay using retail gift cards or money wires—forms of payment that government agencies do not accept.
“Calls threatening you with arrest, lawsuits or account seizure are flat-out scams,” said Sheryl Harris, Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs. “These scammers steal the names of real agencies solely to scare you into paying them.”
Nine of the top 10 scams reported to Cuyahoga County Consumer Affairs in 2018 were impostor scams. They are:
1) Arrest/Court Scams (Scammers pose as law enforcement or court officials)
2) IRS Scams (Callers pose as IRS agents)
3) Computer Tech Scam (Callers pretend to be techs offering help with one’s computer)
4) Sweepstakes/Lottery Scams
5) Grandparent Scams (Callers pretend to be grandkids in trouble with the law)
6) Robocalls (Tie with grandparent scams)
7) Social Security or Medicare Scams
8) Credit or Account Scams (Callers pose as banks or offer to lower credit rates)
9) Charity Scam Calls
10) Debt Collection Scams (Tie with charity calls)
So far in 2019, Consumer Affairs has been receiving additional reports of impostor calls offering free braces or other medical equipment.
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs offers these tips for avoiding impostor scams:
• Don’t trust caller ID readings—scammers often spoof names and numbers.
• Let numbers you don’t recognize go to voicemail. And don’t call unknown callers back.
• Hang up on anyone who threatens you with arrest, legal action or seizure of your accounts.
• Hang up if someone claims to be a grandchild in trouble with the law.
• Remember, it’s not “free” or a “prize” if you have to pay.
• If you’re worried, call police, Scam Squad or family for help checking out the call.
• Hang up if a caller insists on staying on the phone while you go to the bank or to buy gift cards. That’s a ploy to keep you from checking out the story.
• Hang up if anyone directs you to pay using store gift cards, money wires or mailed cash. They’re scammer favorites because they’re hard for police to trace.
Cuyahoga County residents who receive scam calls are encouraged to report them by visiting consumeraffairs.cuyahogacounty.us or by calling the Scam Squad line at 216-443-SCAM (7226).
Imposter Calls from ‘U.S. Treasury’ Targeting Ohioans
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned that Ohio consumers are receiving scam phone calls from individuals pretending to represent the U.S. Treasury.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received approximately 50 reports of the scam in the last four weeks. more …
“It can be intimidating to get a call from someone claiming to represent the government and threatening you by demanding immediate payment or personal information,” Attorney General DeWine said. “These kinds of calls are almost always scams. When in doubt, hang up and call a number you know is legitimate. Don’t use the number provided by the caller.”
In one variation of the scam, the consumer receives a call from a phone number with a 323 or 213 (Los Angeles) area code. The caller, “Steve,” claims to be with the U.S. Treasury. He says the consumer owes money for taxes and will be investigated or arrested unless the consumer makes an immediate payment.
The phone number may be “spoofed,” or disguised, to conceal the true origin of the call. Most consumers do not report losing money to the U.S. Treasury imposter scams, but consumers who respond to the calls may start to receive more unsolicited calls. (By responding to scam calls, consumers reveal that their phone number belongs to a real person.)
On Tuesday, Attorney General DeWine announced that he and 38 other state attorneys general were urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to determine whether phone companies could use call-blocking technology to better protect consumers from unwanted calls and scams.
In their letter to the FCC, the attorneys general asked for a formal opinion on whether phone companies could use call-blocking technology, upon a consumer’s request, to block unsolicited phone calls when the caller appears to be a telemarketer.
Consumers who suspect a scam or unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.
U.S. Treasury or IRS impersonation scams can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.tigta.gov or 800-366-4484.
One Ring Scams
The most current alerts we have received from the Attorney General is a “One Ring Scam”. This is another way individuals are attempting to take money from your pockets. These calls can cost you $20.00 or more! Here’s how it works.
You receive one ring on your home or cellular phone. You don’t recognize the number so you call it back. When you do, the number is routed to an international number that authorizes a charge of up to $20.00 dollars, with an additional $9.00 per minute charge. The number you call back is usually a recording or advertisement designed to keep you on the phone, thus incurring more minutes.
Remember “Curiosity Killed the Cat”. To avoid this from happening to you, don’t call the number back. If someone really needs to get a hold of you they will call back.
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT MAY BE!
Allow us to remind each of you about dealing with contractors.
Whether you are looking to hire someone to clean your windows, gutters or to plow your driveways please understand the following:
You should be suspicious of the contractor if any of these apply.
Does not list a number in the phone book, which may indicate a fly-by-night operation. They may seem legitimate in the beginning, but as soon as you make your first payment for the job they may vanish.
Asks you to get required building permits. Contractors should provide all necessary permits. If they don’t, they may not be licensed or registered properly under the requirements of your state or locality.
Only accepts cash. A legitimate business should have the appropriate financial accounts and should accept a variety of payment options from clients, including personal checks and credit cards.
Solicits door-to-door. Most legitimate contractors find enough work through word of mouth referrals or a service.
If you give partial payment to a contractor and that person does partial work for you, the POLICE DEPARTMENT CANNOT help. By sending partial payment and some of the work being completed you have created a civil agreement! It is always a good idea to check references and check the Better Business Bureau with the name of the contractor you are thinking about. For further information visit the Ohio Attorney General’s web page at www.ag.state.oh.gov. As always, feel free to contact Detective Nebe at 440.287.5212 or Detective Sherwood at 440.287.5210.
MAGAZINE SALE FRAUD ALERT
Every spring we receive complaints about people soliciting magazines door to door. The Orange Village Hall will not allow permission for this type of activity. If you want a magazine subscription we advise you to obtain it through more proven methods, like at the news stand.
One of the favorite lines used by these scammers will be delivered to you on your front porch by a young person that will say – “Hi I’m a student at Orange High School and we are selling magazines for a class trip”.
Don’t fall for this. Often, the person lives out of state and has dropped out of school or is a drifter.
If you decide you must subscribe, please consider the following:
Decide to subscribe. The cost may be described as “pennies a month” but you need to know the length of the subscription commitment and the total cost. Legitimate companies will give you all the details upfront and never insist that you act immediately.
Be cautious about unsolicited emails. They are often fraudulent. If you are familiar with the company that sent you the email and you don’t want to receive further messages, send a reply asking to be removed from the email list. However, responding to unknown senders may simply verify that yours is a working email address and result in even more unwanted messages from strangers. The best approach may simply be to delete the email.
Be wary of “free prizes.” They’re not free if you have to buy magazines to get them.
Know the cancellation policy. Some subscription services don’t allow cancellations once they have placed the orders with the publishers.
Watch out for imposters. Crooks may pretend to be acting on behalf of well-known magazine publishers, when they have absolutely no connection with them at all and will simply pocket your money.
Don’t give your credit card or bank account information unless you’re making a payment. There is no reason why the company would need that information for any other purpose.
Check the prices. It might be cheaper to buy the magazines directly from the publishers than through a subscription service.
As always feel free to call the Orange Village Police Department with any concerns or suspicions.