Scams are attempted and, unfortunately, accomplished, every day in Macon County. These scams originate in foreign countries or distant states, which usually prevents local law enforcement from seeking arrest, prosecution, and restitution. Once the money is gone – it’s typically gone.
Scam artists can be very convincing, and their methods are ever changing. Listed below are some of the most common scams we see.
The best advice to follow: Never give personal information (account or PIN numbers, Social Security number, date of birth) to someone you don’t know. Be cautious in every financial transaction. And never send money to a stranger.
If you have questions, are uncertain, or suspect a scam, please call the ELDER FRAUD HOTLINE at 217-615-7582. All calls are answered by State’s Attorney Jay Scott or Sheriff Thomas Schneider.
YOU’VE WON A PRIZE – Scammers call or email victims advising that they’ve won a large amount of money or a car in a lottery or contest. The victims are directed to pay a “luxury tax” or a processing fee via a money transfer company or a prepaid debit card, before they can receive their prize. This scam has been around for years, but continues to bring profits to swindlers. Remember - If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
YOU’VE BEEN SELECTED TO RECEIVE A GOVERNMENT GRANT – These scammers portray themselves as government employees, telling victims they’ve been selected to receive grant money. Similar to scams telling victims they’ve won a prize, the callers then direct victims to send payment, which amounts to a small percentage of the “grant,” up front. If you are ever asked to send money in order to receive money you can rest assured it’s a scam.
GRANDMA, I NEED MONEY – In this common and often successful scam targeting our senior citizens, callers claim to be a grandchild stranded in another state or foreign country, who need travel funds or money to bond out of jail. The callers convince the victims to send money via a money transfer company or a prepaid debit card.
WE’VE DETECTED A PROBLEM WITH YOUR HOME COMPUTER – Callers claim to be from a reputable computer company, advising that a problem has been detected on the victim’s home computer. The callers will walk the victims through a series of steps on their computer which will make it appear as though a problem actually does exist. The callers then offer to fix the non-existent problem for a fee, and request a credit card number to secure payment.
YOU MISSED JURY DUTY – Callers pretend to be law enforcement officers, telling the victims that they failed to appear for jury duty and that a warrant has been issued for their arrest. The callers pressure the victims to send in a large sum of money via a prepaid debit card so that the matter can be resolved immediately and a lengthy time spent in jail can be avoided.
YOU OWE A TAX PENALTY TO THE IRS – Callers pretend to be representatives of the Internal Revenue Service, falsely stating that the victim owes money to the IRS, pressuring for quick payment to avoid increased penalties or jail time.
YOU OWE THE POWER COMPANY – Callers pose as power company employees, advising victims that their bill hasn’t been paid, and pressure the victims to forward payment via prepaid debit card to avoid immediate disconnection of power.
YOU OWE MONEY FOR AN OLD DEBT OR FOR A PRODUCT – In this seemingly simple scam targeting primarily the elderly, the callers convince the victims that they owe money for an old unpaid debt which doesn’t exist, or for some product, such as magazines, that they never ordered. They direct the victims to send payment to another state or foreign country.
WE’VE DETECTED A PROBLEM WITH YOUR CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT – Callers claim to be a representative of your credit card company, stating that there is a problem with your credit card account. Their goal is to obtain your account number and other personal information so that they can run up charges on your account.
YOU’VE BEEN SCAMMED, AND I’M HERE TO HELP – Once a scam has been successfully completed, the scammers will call the victims notifying them that they’ve been scammed. The caller will pose as a law enforcement official or a representative of a company that helps victims. The caller promises to recover the victim’s losses - if the victim pays them a fee. Falling for this scam only compounds the victim’s loss.
YOU CAN MAKE MONEY WORKING FOR ME FROM HOME – The victims are offered employment from home. They are directed to open a “business account” in their name at their personal bank, and to provide the account number to the scammer. The victims are told that the “employer” will deposit money into the account. All the victim has to do is withdraw money from that account and send certified checks or wire money to certain people in order to help the “employer” with his business transactions. The catch? Once the scammers have the account information they will open an on-line account, which gives them access to all of the victim’s accounts at that bank. The scammers then transfer money from the victim’s own accounts into the “business account.” The victims unwittingly send their own money, until most or all of it is gone, to the scammers.
YOUR LOVED ONE IS IN JAIL AND NEEDS BOND MONEY – Callers claim to be a law enforcement official, stating that a spouse or other loved one is in jail and needs money to bond out. Victims are directed to purchase a prepaid debit card and to provide the activation code, which places the money in the hands of the scammers.
CALLER ID “SPOOFING” - Spoofing is deliberately falsifying the telephone number and/or the name relayed on Caller ID to disguise the identity of the calling party. Scammers use spoofing to make it appear as though they are calling from law enforcement or other government agencies, your bank, or your credit card company. Scammers use spoofing to help lend credibility to their lies. Don’t rely on Caller ID as verification of the identity of the person you are speaking to if you are asked to provide personal information or to send payment.
EMAILS OR PHONE CALLS ASKING YOU TO DEPOSIT LARGE CHECKS IN YOUR ACCOUNT – These scams, which commonly originate in foreign countries, ask you to deposit a large check into your bank account, with the promise that you will get to keep part of the money merely for assisting them in their business transaction. If you oblige them, you will soon be asked to write a check for a portion of the check you received, and send it onto a third party, always in another state or foreign country. The original check is fraudulent, and you will be out any money you forward.
A VARIATION ON THIS SCHEME – The intent of the call or email is solely to obtain your bank account number or other personal information so that the scammers can access the funds in your account.
PANHANDLERS – Many panhandlers, some of whom portray themselves as veterans, homeless, or stranded individuals, are nothing more than professional swindlers who make easy money playing upon the patriotism, generosity, or sympathies of compassionate citizens. Caution should always be exercised when solicited for money by people on the street.
CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS - Scammers often portray themselves as charitable organizations. Effective frauds have posed as charities supporting children, veterans, churches or religious organizations, law enforcement, and medical research, to play upon the sympathies of caring Macon County residents. Make sure you donate only to known, reputable charities so that you know where your hard-earned dollars are going.
HOME REPAIR FRAUD – Scam artists, some of whom target primarily our senior citizens, will pose as handymen offering to do home repair, tree and brush trimming or removal, asphalt sealing, or other services at your home. They request large down payments or payment in full prior to doing the work. Some will provide minimal substandard work, while others take the money and run, never intending to return to do the work.
THE “PAID TO DRIVE” OR “CAR WRAP” SCAM – The scammers offer several hundred dollars per week for simply putting a name brand logo on their car and driving around. This fraud can start with an email, a phone call, or by an advertisement. If the victim agrees, the scammers send them a check in excess of the agreed amount. The victim is directed to send the excess back via a wire transfer. The checks are fictitious and never clear the bank. The victims will be held responsible for all the money wired, often to the tune of thousands dollars.
THE "SAY YES" SCAM - The telephone call, which is being recorded, may begin with a brief introduction, but then the caller will ask a seemingly innocuous question such as "Can you hear me," or "Are you the homeowner," or "Do you pay the household bills?" If you say "yes" the con artists will sign you up for a product or service. When payment is later demanded your recorded "yes" is used by the scammers to claim that you agreed to the charges. Legal action is then threatened if payment isn't made.