Good citizens donated money to help victims in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but fake charities always lurk.
Scammers create websites with names similar to those of well-known organizations. The Internal Revenue Service, IRS.gov, has tools to discern whether organizations are reputable.
Even without a natural disaster, there are plenty of ways to be scammed.
Carol Phillips of Sun City Summerlin was a victim around the first of the year. Her computer stopped working, and she immediately got a phone call from someone in a foreign country offering to send someone to fix it.
“I figured it was legitimate,” she said.
She agreed, and a supposed repair person came to her house, sat down at her computer and ran several scans. She had no idea he was taking all her banking information. To add insult to injury, the so-called service cost her $300.
“I had to change all my banking accounts, credit cards, everything,” Phillips said. “It was a mess. It took two months to get everything straight.”
Scammers behind a recent email phishing scheme look to get people’s bank and personal information. The message says something like, “Due to our new system upgrade, our system was unable to validate your mailbox storage activities, and this may result in account suspension.” It’s a way for scammers to get your bank account information.
Richard Pop of northwest Las Vegas has received a few similar messages. He knew financial institutions would not ask for personal information via the internet. Most of the messages state that his account is closed, and he needs to provide information to have it reopened. He forwards it to the fraud unit of his financial institution.
“These crooks will try anything to get hold of your information,” Pop said. “Sad thing is, some of our older folks could get tricked. It’s really shameful.”
Emails are used for phishing scams. They usually ask one to click on a link. Some say they are from “Admin@E-support.com” or something similar and ask one to validate their mailbox storage. The email says it must be done within 24 hours. Instead, report it to the police.
Not all scams come via computer. One involving a cellphone is aimed at scaring people, saying they haven’t paid their taxes and if they don’t pay up, the police will arrest them.
A phone scam involves having a “detective” call to say you’ve missed jury duty and there’s a warrant out for your arrest … which will all go away if you pay up. Todd Tumbleson, special agent with the FBI, said older people are especially vulnerable.
“(The crooks) need money for drugs, for gambling, for whatever, and they just don’t care,” he said. “You’ve saved all your life, but they want it.”
Some criminals use old-fashioned paper. Mike Gillie got a call in early August from Chase Bank asking if he had authorized cashing a $500 check. Turned out, someone had gotten his account information and used his routing number to print up a fake check and used it to get money in California.
“It had somebody else’s name and address on it and it was (supposedly) from Wells Fargo,” Gillie said. “But my account number was at the bottom.”
He said it was scary to know someone had compromised his bank account that way.
Not all scammers are faceless. Lori Power, the founder of a local nonprofit called Angel’s Power that helps women get out of abusive situations, said two of her former volunteers have been soliciting donations from nonprofits, charities and churches. But those donations go right into their own pockets. One is described as a 6-foot-2 male with dark hair and dark eyes, weighing about 250 pounds, and the other is a 5-foot-7 female with short, blond hair and blue eyes, weighing about 115 pounds. They normally use a black Nissan pickup truck with double doors, large tires and possibly no muffler, Power said.
“This couple is in no way affiliated with Angel’s Power Ltd.,” she said, asking that anyone who has interacted with them contact her at 702-233-8221 or email@example.com.
In July, Attorney General Adam Laxalt warned of a Make-A-Wish Foundation sweepstakes scam. There is no such sweepstakes. Make-A-Wish Foundation is a charity that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
According to complaints, the victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to represent the federal government, using the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or “Consumer Protection Agency.” There is no such agency. The victim is told he or she has won a huge prize in the Make-A-Wish sweepstakes. But to receive the money, the caller needs the winner’s banking information as well as good-faith money up front, sometimes several thousand dollars. The call may appear to originate from a (202) Washington, D.C., area code to make it seem legitimate.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation requests that people who have been targeted email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-722-9474.
The Nevada State Treasurer’s Office is warning residents about an unclaimed-property scam. The website neverclaimed.com says the user must pay a fee to retrieve unclaimed property. Wrong. The State Treasurer’s Office returns unclaimed property for free. Nevadans can search for their unclaimed property by visiting NevadaTreasurer.gov or calling 702-86-4140.
What would Pop say to those out to steal people’s hard-eared money?
“Get a job,” he said, “and earn your money the way the rest of us (have to).”
Contact Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.