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Pigeon Drop Alert Scam Lotto/Prize Scam Free Ride For Elderly Scam Immigration Paperwork Scam
New Home Repair Scam Canadian Lotto Scam Asphalt Pavers Scam No-Risk, Free Trial Confusion Scam
Free Medical Card Scam Citibank Validation Scam Home Improvement Scam Green Card Lottery Scam

Work At Home Scam

Latin Lotto Scam Bogus Agent Scam Debt Collection Scam
Gift Card Scam Spanish Lotto Scam Roof Repair Scam Scholarship Scam
Bait & Switch Scam Fraudulent Bonus Check Scam House Cleaning Scam Child Tax Credit Scam
Online Gambling Award Scam Banking Scams Home Loan Scam Bogus Newspaper Subscription Scam
Euromillones Lotto Scam   Grandchild Phoning For Money Scam Cashier's Check / Internet Sales Scam
Asphalt Paving Scam     Audio Speaker Scam
Internet Relay Bogus Order Scam     Registered Pet Sale Scam
ID Theft & Jury Duty Scam     Short Change Artist Scam
Credit Fix Scam     Identity Theft Scam
      Credit Card Skimmers
      Distraction Thieves

Warning: Cashier's Check and Money Wiring

Scam Prevention Info




Many frauds go unreported because victims are too embarrassed to admit that they were duped. When that happens, the con man is free to move on to his next victim.
There is no shame in becoming a crime victim. The unfortunate fact is that it can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. One of the most common scams is called the pigeon drop. Fall for it and it will cost you dearly.

In the pigeon drop, a couple of strangers tell you they've found or won a large sum of money, a lottery or some other item of value. Then they explain that they can't immediately access the fortune for some reason. They may claim that immediate access will subject them to massive taxes. Or they may claim to be illegal aliens forbidden from cashing a winning lottery ticket. All these are simply ruses to draw you into the scam.

Next, they'll tell you that if you put up some good faith money to secure the prize or winnings, the strangers will split the winnings with you. Don't fall for it! If you do, one thing's for sure: You'll never see the strangers or your money again.

Please report any fraud, scam, rip-off or suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency. The information that you provide might be just enough to thwart a crime, catch a thief or prevent others from being victimized.


There have been a number of recent reports of various scammers who appraoch homeowners (usually elderly homeowners) and offer them a "deal" on roofing or asphalt paving. They price the job at "several hundred dollars", but on completion they insist the homeowner pay them thousands of dollars. Homeowners are often so intimidated that they write checks on the spot for the inflated prices.

PLEASE warn your neighbors and relatives: Do not agree to any home repair work from persons who approach you. Get references before agreeing to have any work done. Pay only the agreed-on (in writing) price. Call the police if you feel you are being intimidated or threatened.

BANKS are alerted to be careful when cashing large checks on elderly customers' accounts presented by out-of-town or out-of-state individuals.


Unknown individuals (probably from Canada or Nigeria) are calling elderly individuals and advising them that they can receive a "Free Medical Card" if they provide the caller with their Bank Account Number.

Advise and Alert your friends and relatives to NOT provide any Bank Account information to callers. Your bank already knows your account information; no one else needs to know!


Beware of "Work At Home" scams that involve the worker returning money to the "employer". This is still another version of the popular "excess amount check or money-order" scams.

In this scam, the person who signs up for (or responds to an invitation for) a "Work At Home" job receives a check or money order which they are instructed to deposit in their own bank account, and then wire part of the amount back to the "company." The entire check eventually is found to be worthless, and the worker is scammed out of the amount they wired back (plus any of the rest of the check that they used).

The latest version of this scam is the "Secret Shopper", where workers are sent a check to use in sample purchases of merchandise, but must send part of the check back.

Additional information on this and similar employment or check/money-order scams can be found at:
Fake Checks.Org


Be careful how you purchase Gift Cards for gift-giving. It appears that it is safer to purchase cards directly from a clerk than select them from open display shelves.
Crooks can copy numbers from gift cards on store racks. Then, after the card is purchased and activated, buyers use them to shop online by entering the card numbers. So do the crooks. They phone an 800 number to check on the balances for card numbers they have copied. When they discover activated cards, they use the card numbers to buy merchandise on a store's web site.

The legitimate owner of the gift card may find the account empty before they even have an opportunity to make purchases.



A new scam from Canada has been reported. The scammers, using the company name "Prudential Security, Inc.", send out phony award claims with phony cashiers checks. The company claims to be an online gambling company that has awarded the victim a cashiers check ranging from $3,000 to $5,000. The victim must call a phone number to authorize the release of the money, and must provide the scammers with the victim's bank account number. The scammers tell the victim that the cashiers check is only a small portion of the actual money the victim has won - the actual amount is supposed to be between $250,000 to $500,000.


The phone numbers of the scammers have been tracked to boiler rooms in Canada. Any person playing on-line poker or gambling games is a target.


Letters are arriving in local residents' mailboxes notifying them that they have won large cash amounts in the "Euromillones Loteria International", which was held on February 4, 2006. One letter stated "You have been approved for the lump payout sum of $810,179...", which will be deposited in the bank account of your choice (all relevant bank account and personal information to be furnished to the Euromillones folks on a conveniently provided form). DO NOT SEND Euromillones any personal or bank information!


Several people have reported that the ASPHALT PAVING TRAVELLERS ARE BACK IN TOWN, and scammed them on a driveway paving job. They approached the victims with the usual story: "left-over asphalt from another job", and offered to do his drive for half-price. The victim realized later that he had been over charged and the work was half done.


Scammers, mostly in Nigeria, but also in a variety of other countries, have increased their use of new technology in a new twist on the old "419 Scam". Now using INTERNET RELAY, they place a relay call to a US business that sells through the web, and place a large order for merchandise. (Internet Relay is designed so deaf or hearing impaired persons can communitate by internet "phone", an internet version of TTY.)
The scammers usually provide several credit card numbers to pay for the merchandise. (The cards later turn out to be stolen or otherwise bogus.) The destination for the merchandise is sometimes England, the Netherlands, or Nigeria (!!red flag!!). Sometimes, the person ordering the merchandise offers to have the order picked up, saving the merchant the trouble of shipping.

There have been numerous instances of this scam in recent years, and an article on MSNBC summarizing the problem is posted at: "Con Artists Target Phone System for Deaf"


Alerts have recently been issued by several states' Attorneys General as well as by the Army concerning a "Jury Duty Scam". Identity thieves pose as representatives of the local court system and obtain personal information from victims under the guise of obtaining "jury duty" information or by telling the victim that they have missed a jury duty summons. The theives then use this information for identity theft purposes.
BE ALERT: Your local court already has all of the information about you necessary for jury duty lists.

A detailed discussion of this scam is posted at: SNOPES.COM


There have been at least 10 incidents involving a SCAM that offers Mexican Nationals assistance with obtaining paperwork to provide them with legal immigration status in the U.S. (work permit or naturalization documents). The person tells the victims that he will take care of all the paperwork, collects their money, and then never delivers on what he promised. The fee the suspect collects from each victim is in the thousands of dollars.


Residents reading a newspaper had found an adertisement from an out-of-state company which claimed they could help people with bad credit. The resident called the listed phone number and was told to send $500 through Western Union. The resident was told that this money would be used to clear up the resident's bad credit problems, and that the company would also send the resident back $5000 in the future. The resident sent the money and soon after discovered that the company's phone and fax numbers had been disconnected.


There have been a number of reports from elderly residents about a scam involving the offer of a "free ride." In this scam, the driver of a vehicle pulls up to an elderly person at a bus stop or walking along a road and offers them a "free ride." Often, the driver, a latin female who speaks Spanish and English, leads the elderly person to believe they know each other. Once they get in the car, the driver takes them to their destination, but manages to take their wallet or purse as she helps them get out of the car.


Some elderly residents have recently reported being confused (and losing money) with "No-Risk, Free-Trial" offers they received through the mail for "discount buyers clubs". The envelope contains a check for $10.00, made out to the resident, which the resident is encouraged to sign and cash or deposit. The next month, the resident is shocked to see that their credit card account has been charged $8.99 for "membership fee". The residents were also puzzled as to how their credit card had been charged, when they did not supply an account number. Similar offers for "trial memberships", with accompanying surprise charges, are also made through telemarketers.

Companies sending out such offers include in the fine print that the "trial membership" must be cancelled in a specified number of days, or the "member's" credit card will be charged. The companies sending out the offers have access to credit card numbers through affiliation with the bank or company owning the credit card account, so do not need for the "member" to provide the credit card number.

For more information on the problems and issues surrounding these "No-Risk, Free-Trial" offers, please go to the web page of FRAUD.ORG


A resident received a call from a person who said he was with "Publishers Clearing House", offering the resident $250,000 if he would wire $2,500.00 by "Money-Gram" to any family member. The resident sent $1,250, by Money-Gram wire, to his mother in Del Rio, Texas. The resident received a receipt from the Money-Gram company. However, the resident later learned that his mother, in Del Rio, never received the money, and it was later learned that the Money-Gram had been diverted, by an unknown person, to a location in Canada. It was also learned that an unknown person in Canada had already claimed the money.


Law enforcement agencies have sent out alerts about several groups of "Travellers" who are doing Asphalt Paving Scams, particularly on elderly homeowners. In these scams, the Travelers (usually described as white males, in their 30's or 40's, driving nice pickups and pulling trailers with paving equipment), approach the resident with a "too good to be true" discount deal on doing paving work, requiring payment up front. After the resident has paid, the Travellers either do a very quick, slipshod job (often just spreading a little tar on top of the drive), or disappear altogether.
In a few cases, the Travellers actually dump asphalt on the driveway first, then demand payment from the resident, making threats of harm if not paid.
DO NOT agree to any repair or paving work without checking on the workers. (See the BASIC CONTRACTOR INFORMATION FORM linked here.)
Always call the police if someone threatens you.


There have been several recent cases involving home improvement scams connected with the same "remodeling company". In one case, the complainant believes the remodeling workers were responsible for the disappearance of a large dollar amount of jewelry; in a second case, "owners" of the same remodeling company took a check for $600 from the elderly resident, but did not return to do the work.

NOTICE: All residents considering home remodeling or repairs should only deal with repair companies/persons they already know, or should have the company representative complete the BASIC CONTRACTOR INFORMATION FORM linked here.


Residents report receiving offers from a commercial company to assist them, for a fee, with filling out application papers for the "Green Card Lottery" (the US State Department's Diversity Visa -- DV -- Lottery).
The Federal Trade Commission has issued a Scam Alert concerning "unscrupulus businesses and attorneys who claim that, for a fee, they can make it easier for you to win the DV Lottery."


First Incident: An elderly resident was recently having some plumbing repair work done at her home when she was approached by two "agents": one identified herself as an "insurance agent" and the second as a representative the the District Attorney's Office. The two "agent" suspects told the elderly resident that the plumbers were going to scam her, and the two agents were there to apprehend them.
The suspects told the elderly resident that she would need to cash a $12,000 check and split it with the suspects. One suspect told the resident that the plumbers would ask for more money the following day, and that when the suspects gave the plumbers their share of the $12,000, the "agent" suspects would arrest the plumbers. A friend of the resident's stopped by as the suspects were getting ready to take the resident to the bank to cash the $12,000 check. The friend questioned the suspects, who became nervous and fled.

Second Incident: A few days later, the same two suspects, driving the same vehicle approached another elderly woman and tried to scam her out of $5,000. The suspects identified themselves as Prudential Insurance agents, and told the woman she needed to have her roof replaced. The woman was in the process of writing a $5,000 check when a friend happened to intervene on her behalf.


Law Enforcement has received several complaints citizens who have recently been receiving "Lottery Prize" letters, with an enclosed check for $72,000. The letter states the law requires the recipient to send an "international tax fee" of $1,850.00 to claim the lottery "winnings".

THIS IS A SCAM. DO NOT SEND ANY MONEY!!! The $72,000 check is worthless!!


Home Repair Scams are frequently discussed on the SCAMNET pages, particularly scams targeting elderly residents. During the past year there have been a number of incidents reported involving roof repairs that were "forced" on an elderly victim. In these scams, the suspect comes to the door and tells the elderly resident that they (the suspect) had installed the roof on the house many years ago, and was returning to do necessary upkeep or repairs (or, in one case, the suspect told the elderly resident that he could see shingles loose and the roof obviously needed repair). When the resident expresses doubt, or refuses the repairs, the con artist uses any number of stories or ways to finally convince the resident to give him a check. Repairs are never done, or if "work" is done, it is superficial and most likely not needed in the first place.

BEWARE of any repair persons who come to your door unsolicited. Call the police if you believe someone is trying to scam you or pressure you into paying for repairs that you do not want or need.


There have been several incidents reported recently involving a business contacting a local resident (often an elderly resident) by phone, claiming the resident owes a large amount of money (for services or for goods). When the resident disclaims any knowledge of the debt or overdue account, the "collection agency" threatens the resident with stronger collection tactics (going to court, etc.), but offers to accept a percent of the money "owed" to settle the account.


Citibank has issued an ALERT concerning fraudulent e-mails Citibank account holders may receive asking them to validate their account information, including entering their PIN number and other personal information into a web page.
For more information on this SCAM, please go to the Citibank "Fraudulent E-Mails" web page.

For an example of one of these fraudulent e-mails click HERE.

The same type of scam has also been sent out using a variety of bank names, the names of various credit cards (Visa, etc.), as well as the names of other financial institutions. ALL have the same goal: to get you to tell them your PRIVATE account information, so they can use it for fraudulent purposes.


An alert concerning a current SCHOLARSHIP SCAM. A company called the College Funding Center has charged $1,000 and promised to assist students find scholarship opportunities.


Recently, two females conned a female out of approximately $15,000.00 in jewelry in a Latin Lotto Scam. One of the suspects approached the victim in a parking lot and claimed to have a $150,000 winning lotto ticket, but said she could not cash it because she was from Costa Rica. Suspect #2 arrived and convinced the victim that if they all chipped in $15,000 they could split the winnings. The victim took both suspects to her house and gave them the jewelry. The victim then drove the suspects to an office, where the suspects disappeared (with the victim's jewelry).


Letters are again being sent by e-mail and snail mail, notifying residents that they have "won the ElGordo Spanish Lottery." The notices provide an amount of winnings (usually US$ millions), and a phone number to contact to make the arrangements to have the winnings transferred to the US, to the "winners'" bank account.

It is such a widespread scam that the actual (legitimate) ElGordo Spanish Lottery has posted an ALERT on their web page, titled : "Advice About Scams" .

Do not reply to this letter if you receive one. Replying will only notify the scammers that your e-mail address is "good", and you will most likely receive additional scam solicitations.


The Internal Revenue Service issued a SCAM ALERT warning taxpayers about a new scam targeting potential recipients of the Advance Child Tax Credit. The IRS has seen isolated instances of this new scheme.

HOW DOES IT WORK ? A taxpayer receives a telephone call from a person who promises to speed up the payment of the Advance Child Tax Credit checks. The catch is the taxpayer must agree to a $39.99 charge to a credit card.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that no person or organization can "speed up" the payment of tax benefits.

IN REALITY: Taxpayers do not have to take any action to get the new benefit, which features an advance payment for up to $400 per qualifying child. The Treasury Department and IRS will perform all the calculations and automatically mail a notice and a check to each eligible taxpayer.

SIMILAR SCAMS: Under the new scam, the IRS is seeing a continuation of a trend that emerged earlier this year when the families of those serving in the Armed Forces were targeted. In both of these schemes, scam artists use current events to prey on unsuspecting victims. The scams also feature callers seeking credit card information to get taxpayers to pay for special benefits. If the taxpayer agrees to the charge and provides a credit card number or other sensitive personal information, she could find a much larger charge to her account. By the time the taxpayer realizes something is wrong, the scam operator is long gone, possibly victimizing another taxpayer.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? If you encounter this latest tax scam or suspect tax fraud or abuse in some other situation, report it to your nearest IRS office. When in doubt, seek help from the IRS or a tax professional.

You can also call the IRS TAX FRAUD HOTLINE at 1-800-829-0433.

For additional information, please visit the IRS WEBPAGE


Recently, there have been several reported cases involving an individual who goes door-to-door selling bogus subscriptions to the Express-News. The individual approaches the homeowner and offers them a newspaper subscription for the incredibly low price of $20 for six months. After the money is paid, the homeowner never receives a paper. In some instances, the individual has offered to accept credit cards, in an attempt to get the credit card number.

If someone approaches you offering an unusually cheap newspaper subscription, please contact the police, or verify the salesman's credentials with the Express-News before paying the salesman any money or providing him access to your credit card number.


Alerts have been issued by Frost National Bank, the FDIC, the Comptroller of the Currency, and other agencies concerning COUNTERFEIT CASHIER'S CHECKS that are currently being used in various scams originating in internet commerce or e-mail solicitations.

All the scams have in common the payment to the victim of a Cashier's Check for an amount much greater than what the victim is due (for the sale of an item, etc.). The "buyer" usually tells the victim/seller that "someone owes him money", and the victim can take the check in payment, deposit it, and refund the extra funds back to the "buyer" (who is generally in Nigeria or another African country). However, the Cashier's Check is later found to be counterfeit, and the victim is out not only the balance, but also the item sold (if it has been shipped).

One of the more popular Cashier's Checks used in this scam is a counterfeit Frost National Bank Cashier's Check. 98% have surfaced with the name of Joshua Acosta as the "remitter". (Acosta was a victim of this scam chain.) More than 300 victims have been identified from every state in the U.S. so far, with potential losses amounting to over $3 million.

This scam of providing a large amount Cashier's Check and agreeing to a refund of the balance is also used in variations of the very popular "Nigerian Investment Scam", in the newer variation the "Iraq Investment Scam" ("...desperate to get money out of Iraq..."), as well as purchase offers from African and Middle Eastern countries for items advertised for sale over the internet (vehicles are very popular targets), for "signing bonus" fees paid to victims who were offered non-existent jobs, plus a large variety of similar scams.

HOW TO AVOID THIS SCAM: Cashier's Checks from Frost Bank and other banks are generally safe and secure payment methods. HOWEVER:

  • If you are offered a "deal" that sounds too good to be true, and
  • it involves you agreeing to accept a Cashier's Check for more money than you are owed, and
  • you are asked to remit ANYTHING to the "buyer" (or to the foreign investor),


This scam is a scam that is pulled throughout the US, using various brand names of audio speakers.
In this scam, a motorist is flagged down (at a stopsign, parking lot, etc.) by individuals in a van or car who say they have some really expensive audio speakers they need to sell (cheaply), because their "boss" (or their company) ordered too many.
After a great deal of bargaining and talking, the motorist finally purchases the speakers for a price that he/she believes is "cheap", only to find out later that the speakers are worthless.


Two scams involving the sale of registered pets are currently being practiced. Both start with advertisements in the newspaper, and end up with the victim losing their money or their pet.

PET SCAM #1: In this scam, a young latin female answers a newspaper ad for a registered pet for sale. She goes to the residence of the seller, and while observing the pets she asks to see a parent of the pet that is for sale. While the owner/seller is fetching the parent animal, the female scam artist leaves with the pet that was for sale.

PET SCAM #2: In this second scam, a 30-year-old latin female is the seller. She is running ads for registered dogs for sale, and taking deposits of up to $300 a pet, but not producing the pet when it comes time to finish the sale. The scam artist takes the deposit money from prospective the buyer and promises a delivery date for the dog(s), but is never seen again.


The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has learned that some individuals and banks are being victimized by a scheme involving on-line job applications.
SCAM DETAILS: The individuals have applied for and accepted jobs through an on-line job search service advertising "signing bonuses" of approximately $2,500 to new hires. Each prospective employee has received a check ranging from $19,000 to $50,000 by mail from the prospective employer, with instructions to deposit the check, preferably at an ATM. The recipient is further instructed to keep $2,000 to $4,000, depending upon the amount of the signing bonus, and return the balance of the money by wire to a location in Europe.
THE CHECKS ARE FRAUDULENT; therefore, the depositor is ultimately responsible for any amounts charged back to his or her account by the bank resulting from the dishonor of the checks.
In some cases, banks have suffered losses when a customer has been unable to cover the overdrafts resulting from the dishonor and return of the fraudulent checks.


In this scam the suspects identify themselves as volunteers from a senior citizens group and offer free house cleaning services, but actually burglarize the residence instead of cleaning it.

The suspects approach a homeowner and tell them that they are volunteers workers for "Senior Services of America", or some other senior services group. They befriend the homeowner and enter the house, explaining all the services that they have to offer. While one suspect talks to the homeowner, the other suspect walks through the house, stealing money, checks, jewelry, and anything else that they can conceal.


This subject will approach employees in a Department store with a small item (usually under $5.00) and ask to pay for it. The suspect will produce a $100.00 bill for payment of the sale, but as the employee finishes the sale and gives the suspect his change back, he asks for the $100.00 bill back and offers to pay with a smaller bill. The employee in most cases will give the change back along with the $100.00 bill, without realizing they have been taken.


BANK EXAMINER SCAM: If someone tells you they are with "law enforcement" and asks your assistance in finding "dishonest" bank employees by withdrawing money from your account and giving it to the "law enforcement" person, DO NOT DO IT!! This is a scam that is currently being done on elderly bank patrons, most recently by a man who calls himself "Captain Wolf."

BE ALERT: Law enforcement will not ask the public to put up their own money to aid an investigation.

LOTTERY SCAM: In this scam, a "lottery ticket winner" from "another country" approaches an account holder to assist him in claiming the winnings by withdrawing money from the account and giving it to the "lottery winner". The "winner" promises to share the lottery winnings with the account holder, but the "winner" actually takes the account holder's money and disappears.

BE ALERT: U.S. citizenship is not required to claim a winning lottery ticket.



Contact Fraud Departments of the 3 major credit bureaus.
Request copies of your Credit Reports.
Contact fraud departments of your creditors.
File a report with the Federal Trade Commission: (Toll Free: 1-877-ID-THEFT)
Contact the U.S. Postal Service if you believe your mail has been stolen.
Contact your bank.

Federal Trade Commission
Identity Theft Resource Center


HOMEBUYERS AND HOMEOWNERS : Be aware of unscrupulous predatory lenders who are using high-pressure abusive tactics in convincing borrowers to borrow at high interest rates. These lenders do not always quote the interest rate or the outrageous fees. These loansharks set homeowners up for failure with these high rates. When the borrower falls behind, the shark forecloses and takes the home.


Who wouldn't help out a grandchild who was in trouble and needed money?

Con artists know that seniors are trusting, caring and generous. In fact, it is these very genuine qualities that tend to make seniors more vulnerable to a scam. And in one scam that has made the rounds, con artists are defrauding seniors all across the country by posing as grandchildren who are in a jam and need some financial help.

In just one day, three people, all in their 80s, were taken in by this scam. Their heartbreaking losses totaled $9,000. Here's what you need to know about this scam to avoid becoming its next victim: This particular scam is initiated with a phone call, perhaps to exploit the fact that some seniors suffer from hearing loss.

"Hi, is this grandma?" the caller says. Momentarily confused, the victim may not exactly recognize the voice, but may assume they are talking to a grandchild. Using the name of one of their grandchildren, the victim may even say something to the caller like: "Is that you, Johnny?" When the caller responds "yes," the hook has been set and the scam is in full motion.

Next, the caller will say that he is in some unspecified trouble and needs money -- not a check, but cash, and they need it right away. The victim will be asked to go to the bank and withdraw the funds and then return home, and a friend will stop by to pick up the money.

At this point, several red flags should go up warning that this could be a scam. For instance:

  • It should send up a warning flag when someone, even a family member, won't accept a check and instead demands cash. 
  • Again, it should send up a warning flag when someone, even a family member, sends another person to your home to pick up money.
  • Generally, the callers are vague about the details or exact nature of their financial problem, which should serve as a sign that they might have something to hide.
  • Also, the caller's instructions include a common element of most scams - secrecy. The caller asks the victim not to tell anyone about the conversation or the loan.

Unfortunately, the criminals working this particular scam are very smooth and convincing, and the three Deltona victims failed to pick up on any of the warning signs. All three went to the bank as requested, withdrew the money and came home. A short while later, a woman came to their doors, saying they were a friend of the victims' grandchildren and were there to pick up the money.

After waiting hours, or in some cases days, all three victims called their grandchildren to ask if they had received the money. Naturally, the grandchildren didn't know anything about the money, and the victims realized they had been scammed and called the Sheriff's Office.

Get fooled by this scam, and it will be costly. If you receive a call like this, there are several things you can do. First, tell the person claiming to be your grandchild that you must go and that you will call them right back. Then, call your grandchild to find out whether this is a scam. Or you can simply hang up the phone.


We've all heard about scam artists and their tricky and deceitful ways. This is a story about skimmers, or skim artists. Credit card skimming has been around for years and is a growing problem that seems to be getting worse.

Here's how the scheme works: It starts with skim artists who recruit accomplices to find temporary work, usually at places such as restaurants, hotels and retail businesses. The accomplices are given an illegal electronic device, known as a skimmer, that can capture all of the personal information from a credit card or debit card. All it takes is a quick swipe and a few seconds, and the skimmer device captures the card holder's name, address, telephone number, card number, credit limit and PIN number. 

If you're like most people, you probably assume that when you make a credit card transaction that the card is in safe hands. However, that isn't always the case. Skim artists will first swipe your card through the legitimate machine, but then secretly swipe it through the smaller skimmer machine when you're not looking. The accomplice usually is paid money to use the illegal skimmer machine and then returns the machine to the con man. The con man now has all the information he needs to download your credit card information onto a computer and make a fake card in your name. 

The skim artist may use the phony credit card himself or sell it to someone else. Either way, chances are you won't know any of this has taken place until you get your monthly statement and notice the unauthorized charges made in your name. 

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind to help protect yourself from skimmers and other types of credit card frauds:

  • Try to keep your eye on your credit card while it's being processed.
  • Make sure that the clerk returns your card to you. When it's returned, look at your card to be certain that it's really yours.
  • Check your statements regularly and review them thoroughly to make sure that you haven't been billed for purchases or transactions that you didn't make or authorize.
  • Obtain your credit report annually from the major credit bureaus and check for any fraudulent activity.
  • Never leave your credit cards laying around in the open.
  • When checking out at the store register, shield your credit card from people around you in case someone is looking over your shoulder for an opportunity to copy your credit card number.
  • Make sure your transactions are accurate. Be on guard for dishonest merchants who might change your credit card slip after you sign it.
  • Never sign a blank charge slip.
  • Always total your charge slip before signing the credit card receipt. Don't leave blank spaces for others to fill out.
  • Destroy carbons and voided receipts immediately.


It's called a distraction theft, and it happens more often than you might imagine. Frequently, seniors are the targets of distraction thieves, and winter in Florida is the prime time for these bandits. That's because distraction thieves travel in small packs, move around the country to escape prosecution and ordinarily like to take advantage of the south's mild winters to work their scams.

A distraction theft usually is performed by at least two people, although some distraction thieves work alone. When two people work the scam as a team, it usually involves one person distracting the victim, while the other helps themself to the victim's unattended belongings. These crafty thieves accomplish their distraction in a variety of ways and will use every trick in the book to get inside your home. They may come to the door as a team, pretending to be inspectors, utility workers or sales people for pest control businesses, roofing companies or other home improvements.

Once inside your home, the crime will begin. Working as a team, one of the thieves will engage the victim in a conversation or phony sales pitch to divert the victim's attention while the other thief sneaks away to swipe the victim's belongings.

Other distraction thieves prefer to work alone. They go house-to-house knocking on doors. If no one answers, the thief may go around to the rear of the house and look for any easy way to get in. If someone answers the door, the thief will try a variety of excuses to try to trick you into letting them in your home. Here are some of the distraction thief's most common lines: I'm here to check your pipes, check your telephone line, check the water, you've won a prize or I've lost my pet. Others will ask for a glass of water, a pen or piece of paper to jot down a note or ask permission to use your toilet. 

Once inside, it's a green light for the thief to distract you long enough to case your home for valuables.

Like all cons and thefts, you're far less likely to fall for a scam if you know what to look for. Here's a list of safety reminders that will help you avoid becoming a distraction thief's next victim:

  • Stop and think: Are you expecting anyone to come to your home? Most utilities and service staff won't come to your home unannounced. They will make an appointment before showing up.
  • If your door has a chain, put it on before answering the door. It will create a barrier between you and the caller.
  • If someone unexpected, who you don't know, comes to your home, don't let them in unless you are absolutely certain they are genuine.
  • Try not to keep large amounts of cash in your home. Keep things like your pension book, savings book, checkbook and credit cards well hidden.
  • If a sales person, repairman or utility worker comes to your door, ask for an identification card. Then, read it carefully. If you're still not sure, close and lock the door and call the number on the card while the person waits outside.
  • If you're still not sure whether the person is genuine, close and lock the door and wait for the person to leave. If he doesn't, call law enforcement.


PIGEON DROP: When someone tells you he or she has just found some money and wants to share it with you.
BANK EXAMINER SCHEME: A phone call from a "Bank Officer" checking on a dishonest employee and wanting your help.
IMPERSONATOR SCAMS: "Phony" gas company inspector, phony police, etc. "flashes" identification and wants to come into your home. (Especially if they ask where you hide your valuables.)
JAMAICAN SWITCH: Foreign person who "flashes" a lot of money and is giving you some "for just helping."
HOME IMPROVEMENT SCAMS: Person appears at your door, offering to spray your driveway or roof, fertilize the lawn, trim your trees, or some other home improvement. The price they quote will seem cheap, and they promise to do the work right away.
MAIL FRAUDS: Fake contract arrives in your mail, usually begins with the news that you have won something.
WORK AT HOME SCAMS: Newspaper or other ads claiming that you can earn money at home. Just send them money.
BAIT AND SWITCH SCAMS: You cannot find the advertised bargains and the salesperson directs you to a higher priced item.
HEALTH QUACKERY: Product or service offered as a secret remedy. Sponsor claims to be battling the medical profession, which won't recognize some marvelous discovery. The remedy is sold door- to-door, or in direct mail solicitations offering free medical diagnosis, etc. The promoter tells you of miracle cures.

Last Updated: May 20, 2009