Among the more than 30,000 complaints the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section received in 2012 were many reports of potential scams. They ranged from phony business opportunities or online vehicle scams to sweepstakes ploys and sweetheart scams.
The following scams — including one that cost victims nationwide more than $2 million — proved to be some of the worst:
Con Artists Favor Prepaid Cards
Sweepstakes Scams: Prize and sweepstakes scams have been circulating for years, and they continued to plague Ohio consumers in 2012. Reported scams typically began with a phone call or letter claiming the consumer had won a prize. Most consumers did not fall for the ploy, but a few sent hundreds or thousands of dollars, often via wire transfer, for a prize that didn’t exist.
Business Opportunity Scams: During Older Americans Month in May, Attorney General DeWine warned Ohioans that elderly consumers were increasingly entering into Internet business opportunities that provided them nothing in return. In some cases, consumers paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for online business ventures that didn’t deliver. Unscrupulous telemarketers get in on the action, too. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission thanked the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for assisting with a case against a telemarketing operation that for years deceived consumers into thinking its services would help their home-based businesses succeed. The enterprises often charged several thousand dollars for tax help or customized planning but failed to provide promised services.
Land Sale Scam: In June 2012, the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit and the Miami County Prosecutor’s Office indicted 18 suspects on felony charges for running a national telemarketing fraud ring that stole more than $2 million from thousands of victims in 41 states. Since 2007, the telemarketing ring, made up of at least three different companies, targeted elderly victims and promised it would sell the inexpensive, vacant land the victims owned. These companies told victims their land was worth up to 15 times its assessed value and that they had eager buyers who wanted to purchase the land. Victims paid fees of $500 to almost $16,000 to guarantee the sale of the land, but the land was never sold. In fact, while the three companies were operating, there were never any buyers, closings, or sales.
In 2012, con artists increasingly asked potential victims to send payment using prepaid money cards. Prepaid cards, which can be found at many retail stores, offer many of the same benefits as a credit or debit card, without requiring the user to have a checking account or credit card. They also lack the protections that accompany a credit or debit card.
The convenience and lack of regulation of prepaid cards make them a popular form of payment for con artists. A scammer may ask a victim to buy a prepaid card at a store and provide the card’s activation code. The activation code makes it easy for the scammer to access the money almost anywhere.
If someone asks you to purchase a prepaid card as the form of payment, be wary: It could be the sign of a scam.
To learn more or to report a scam, visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
or call 800-282-0515