Beware the Scam of the Month

Sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference between a good deal and just some marketing ploy intended to get me to buy more, more, more. It happens a lot in the grocery store, and it drives me crazy when I find out I fell for the sucker deal instead of the legitimately good deal.

For instance, I love buying a whole pineapple. I have found that pineapple prices can vary widely, depending on where you shop. At my local grocery store, they had a sign advertising their pineapple prices in bright yellow and red colors, as if the price had dropped or it was on a good sale. And you must take advantage of this sale immediately before it goes away (what is it about red and yellow colors? Marketing gurus must have figured out long ago that human hearts will start racing at the sight of exclamation points, the color red, and words in ALL CAPS).

And I felt good about myself for spotting a deal. But then I rounded out my shopping at one of the warehouse food places (Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.), and saw that their pineapple price was almost $3 less than what I had paid. Argh. So annoying, I practically felt like I’d been hoodwinked.

Is this a peacock, or a statue of a peacock or something else entirely?

Is this a peacock, or a statue of a peacock or something else entirely?

That’s what it’s like for this month’s scam: you get an automated call saying that such and such “recovery group” or “agency” is going to take legal action against you if you don’t give up some kind of personal information, or better yet, your payment information. And that things will get much more dire for you if you don’t just do what they say.

You take the time to look them up online, and see that they have a website, and a phone number that someone answers on the other line. They seem legit. But are they?

Maybe, maybe not. Here are three information-seeking tips I have for making sure these “recovery groups” are truly legitimate debt collectors:

  1. Look at their address on Google maps, especially Google street view. They may have an address, but when you look it up on a map (especially if you can get street view), does it look like a business or just a mail drop off location?
  2. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but look to see where they are located. For some reason, a lot of bogus debt collectors are based in the New York area, especially Buffalo, NY. Read Bad Paper, by Jake Halpern, if you don’t believe me.
  3. Finally, look beyond the first link Google pulls up for you when you search this business. Yes, they might have a website and a phone number that looks credible, but that doesn’t mean you should give them your credit card information. Often times, they have scammed others and their phone numbers or other business information have been posted on websites in an attempt to alert others.

Now that I think about it, comparing price-gouging on pineapples isn’t nearly the same as getting scammed and harassed by bogus debt collectors. But I was pretty frustrated with my less-than-bargain pineapple and needed to vent.

Scams of the Month

 

I get calls frequently about scammers calling to collect debt from hard-working and honest people. The scammers usually work the state every 4 or 5 months, and then move on. I thought it would be helpful to put together the latest scams I hear about each month into one blog post in order to debunk their credibility. Without further ado:

 

  1. There is a warrant for your arrest, and the only way to prevent your arrest is by paying your debt immediately. Payment can usually be made through Walmart Green Dot Visa cards. 
  2. The caller threatens you with immediate imprisonment or that they can get a court to instantly enter a judgment against you. Uh, no. Do they mean immediate imprisonment in their mom’s basement? Because if that’s what they mean, then yes, they can immediately imprison you. And then be charged with criminal false imprisonment or kidnapping. But no, they can’t have law enforcement just show up, arrest you, and throw you in the clink. That’s not how it works.  
  3. Vague threats of a lawsuit. No one calls you to tell you that they are going to sue you. They just file a lawsuit, and you get notice of the lawsuit through certified mail or the sheriff’s office or a legal process server.
  4. The “IRS” calls to tell you that you owe back taxes or some kind of debt to the government, and the only way to prevent your immediate arrest is by paying the amount they are demanding. Sorry, but you’re not special enough to get a direct call from the IRS.
  5. Insisting that the money must be wired, or mailed to an address that turns out to be a UPS store. Not legitimate, folks, not legitimate.

If there’s any question about whether or not the caller is a legitimate debt collector, err on the side of caution and hang up.