YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – They may come in phone calls, text messages, or emails. There are a lot of criminals out there trying to scam people out of money.
This week, WKBN 27 First News Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford talks with Melissa Ames from the Better Business Bureau about ways you can protect yourself and your family from scammers.
Ames says they are seeing the same scams over and over again.
“They are just evolving with technology. Before it might have been a fax that we received, maybe a phone call, but now it might be an email or a text message,” she said.
An example is a grandparent exam where someone calls and says your family member is in jail and they need money.
“As often as we talk to Valley seniors about it, it is still happening. And oftentimes it’s just because of the timing of it. It happens in the middle of the night. Maybe it’s late in the evening. We are getting ready to go to bed and we get that phone call, and you hear that voice over the phone and it just frightens you,” Ames said.
Ames said you need to take a deep breath and evaluate the situation and start asking questions.
“Tell me about where you are at or what kind of car you have, and start to ask questions that only your loved one would know. That usually helps defuse the situation. It raises your red flag to say that this is not my loved one. I’m dealing with a con artist over the phone,’ Ames said.
Ames said a local couple was scammed out of $53,000. It happens often and some people are too embarrassed to report it.
“They don’t want to report it to authorities how much money was actually lost,” Ames said.
Another way people, and not just the elderly, are scammed is during big shopping days like Black Friday and Prime Day. Links will pop up in social media feeds selling products, but Ames cautions about clicking on them. She says it’s best to find the product’s website yourself rather than clicking on a link from social media.
“Don’t go click on any links that you don’t know who they’re. We are seeing a lot of these pop up ads because a lot of retailers following Amazon are advertising a lot of sales,” Ames said. “If it’s an ad you are really interested in, go directly to that retailer.”
Also, pay attention to pricing. Some retailers offer better prices depending on whether you are buying online or in-store.
“You have to do your due diligence as a consumer and shop around to find out what the best deal is for you,” Ames said.
Money transfer apps are also another way that users can be fooled. And once that money is transferred, you can’t get it back.
“It’s very convenient, but you have to be really aware of who you are dealing with. We have seen a lot of scams come up through these different money transfer services because oftentimes once that money is transferred, you can not get that money back. Ten years ago, scam artists would ask for debit cards, and now they are asking for that same payment via these apps,” Ames said.
Another development on the scam front is work-from-home jobs. Ames points to past years when stuffing envelopes job scams were going around. Post-COVID, the scams in this arena has escalated.
“It’s really difficult for consumers who are job seeking to find the right employer for them and making sure it’s a legitimate employer. And so what we hear from a lot of consumers and even from job listing sites is that there are a lot of fake job postings,” Ames said. “What will happen is they will contact you for an interview. Oftentimes, it’s a remote interview by Zoom. And lucky you, you have gotten the job. Congratulations, and so now they are looking for personal information because oftentimes that’s what happens in a job interview. They need your Social Security number.”
Car wrapping scams are out there, too. You drive your car around town with decals on it. The “employer” tells you they are going to send you a check but many times it’s a fake document.
“Now, this company that you’ve never heard of before has your social security number, your banking information, and you’re left paying the bill for that fake check,” Ames said.
Ames says research is the key. Vet all job offers and inquiries. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau at 330-744-3111.