The new year has brought new reports of scam artists looking to victimize Ohio residents.
A Hamilton resident received a postcard Monday announcing, “We are trying to reach you about your Unclaimed Reward!” and proclaiming they were eligible to receive a $100 gift savings reward redeemable at Walmart or Target stores. The card listed a phone number and when called, the person who answered said there was a $1 processing fee and asked for a credit card number to pay it, according to Officer Kristy Collins of the Hamilton Police Department.
“This is definitely a scam,” Collins said, adding that three other people, including a Middletown resident, have been in contact with her about receiving the same postcards.
“Never, ever, ever give out your credit card or bank information to someone who says you have won something. If you have won it, or it is free, you will not have to pay any fee. It is just a way to get your credit card information.”
The Federal Trade Commission says scam artists in the United States and around the world defraud millions of people every year, using the phone, email, postal mail and the Internet to trick consumers into sending them money. The agency did a statistical survey of fraud in the U.S. during 2011 (the most recent data available) and found that 25.6 million adults — or 10.8 percent of the adult population — had been fraud victims.
A second online scam was reported by area Hamilton residents this week involving websites posing as payday loan companies.
According to Collins, the site initially asks for a payment (using a Green Dot Moneypak card or transfer by Western Union), and then advises the victim that they need a certain amount of money put on this card for a “loyalty payment” to make sure they are good for the loan. If a person is persuaded, the scam artist will call back asking for more money. They are telling victims that they need more funds to “register” the loan, Collins said.
“Hamilton police strongly warn residents to be leery about wiring money when using Western Union or when obtaining a Green Dot Moneypak. Be especially cautious when asked to send the money first,” she said.
Two employees of Middletown businesses were contacted last week by fake Duke Energy employees who demanded payment or their power would be shut off.
The scam artist called employees at Frisch’s on Dixie Highway and Subway on Roosevelt Boulevard and told them they had a matter of hours to wire money for payment of the restaurants’ power would be disconnected.
Lt. Scott Reeve said neither employee fell for the scam. He added: “Unfortunately in many of these cases, these people can be out of the state or the country and are difficult to find.”
Duke Energy and other energy suppliers have seen scams similar to the one in Middletown for about a year, said Sally Thelen, spokeswoman.
“I the past 10 months, we have completely stepped up our anti-fraud campaign so that our customers don’t fall victim,” Thelen said. She added, at first, the calls using the “fear factor” of being without power were targeted at residential users, but more recently small businesses have been targeted.
Customers at risk of disconnection will receive advanced notice, “not just an hour,” Thelen said. She added customers would never be asked to use a prepay card for payment.
If a customer suspects they are a victim of a scam, Thelen said they should hang up, call the police and then call the company directly at 1-800-544-6900.
By Lauren Pack - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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