BBB warns about variety of scams

<i>This is a consumer advice column written by the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. It appears Thursdays in Business. </i><br>

This list is current as of April 3. Readers should take into consideration the importance of the practice in question and the total performance of the company.

1. Rental scam on Craigslist. A local woman reported she had been scammed after seeing a house rental listing on the internet site Craigslist. The man who placed the ad told her he regretted buying the home and needed to rent it out. She gave him $400 for the deposit and $1,200 for two months’ rent, paid by MoneyGram. Once received, he asked her for money, saying his daughter was sick and he needed to pay for health care. She declined to pay and discovered no house was for rent.

2. A man needed a small loan, so he went online and researched small-business, personal, and payday loans. That’s when the calls started. The “Loan Club” offered a $1,000-$5,000 loan, with only $75 needed to get started to be paid with an iTunes gift card. Also, the man’s bank and routing number must be provided. He paid the initial $75 and was told by a “Jack Brown” that the iTunes gift card didn’t work and the man had to pay $100 and $50 with iTunes cards. Supposedly, those payments didn’t work either, so $110 was requested. Our caller never received his loan or his money back.

3. Variations of the “Can You Hear Me?” call. There have been several reports that recorded calls are being received that mention a warranty expiring. In order to talk to a customer service representative, call recipients are asked to say “yes,” and after responding the call ends. Supposedly, the recording is being used as a way to make purchases. Although we are not aware of anyone who has been scammed, use caution should you receive this call.

Another variation of this call is, “This is the IRS calling. Can you hear me?”

4. Dupont Hospital is not calling individuals and telling them that they have won a free cruise. The caller who reported this said the only reason she picked up the phone is because she thought the call was coming from the hospital. Local numbers are often used to trick consumers, which is called spoofing.

5. NIPSCO call impersonators. We have received reports that individuals are impersonating natural gas provider NIPSCO. The callers tell people that their gas/heat will be turned off immediately if their bill isn’t paid. One caller wanted $300 for non-payment but said he would accept $210. NIPSCO said it is not making these calls.

6. Scary call about a formal complaint. Calls have been received by a person threatening, “A formal complaint is being issued against you and will be served with a document to provide your ID.” If a lawsuit or formal complaint was truly being filed against someone, a letter would be received. This is a scare tactic used by frauds.

7. Microsoft is shutting down your computer (not really). This call threatens that your Microsoft license will be canceled in seven business days if payment is not made. Once this license is canceled, your computer will be shut down. Calls came from 1-862-234-5933 on multiple occasions. When the number is dialed, it rings busy.

8. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services supposedly is offering a $9,200 grant. To receive this, recipients are asked to buy a $200 card from Walgreens. In exchange for this, the impersonator says that he will reimburse the $200 by providing a check in the amount of $9,400.

A caller reported that she was told she was among 1,500 selected for a $7,000 grant. She was told she qualified because she had never filed for bankruptcy, files her taxes on time and has no criminal record. A confirmation number was provided with a different number to call; she was told that she needed to purchase a $300 activation card from Walmart and given a reference number (47995059). Since she did not have $300 for the activation fee, the caller hung up. <br>

<i> Marjorie Stephens is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. </i>