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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > January 2015 > Scam Alert: Imposter Websites and Emails

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Scam Alert: Imposter Websites and Emails

Despite the many benefits of the Internet, such as shopping online and researching a business, there also are some pitfalls — among them, scam websites and email messages.
Some imposter websites target scam victims who have lost money using prepaid money cards. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has received complaints about phony MoneyPak refund websites. MoneyPak is a prepaid money card that can be used for legitimate purposes, but it also has become a preferred payment method for scam artists.

In Ohio, a consumer who lost thousands of dollars in a grandparent scam found a website that he initially thought was a legitimate MoneyPak company site. When the consumer called a telephone number he found on the site, a “representative” told him to purchase four $500 MoneyPak cards so that a refund could be loaded onto the cards. Recognizing the scam, the consumer refused the representative’s request.
Additionally, people who post items for sale online should watch out for fake PayPal email messages from potential buyers, otherwise known as “spoofed” emails. An Ohio individual who had an item listed for sale on Craigslist received spoofed emails that appeared to be from PayPal. One email stated that PayPal had received payment but said the money would not be released until the seller wired money to the “Pick-Up Agent.” In reality, the scammer had created a phony email that was not from PayPal in order to trick the seller into wiring money. (If you find a suspicious “PayPal” email, you can forward it to
Attorney General DeWine warns consumers about the red flags of an imposter website:
  • Web addresses that are similar (but not identical) to those of real organizations. Fake websites often contain a slight misspelling, or may use a web address with an unfamiliar ending. For example, instead of using a common ending such as .com, .org, or .gov, scammers may use the country code for a foreign country or another unfamiliar designation or abbreviation.
  • Having to send a smaller payment in order to get a larger payment. Scammers often try to trick their victims into sending some payment with the promise that soon the victim will receive a larger payment. Ultimately, while the victim’s money is good, the scammer’s claims are not, and the victim won’t receive anything in return.
  • Requests for prepaid money cards or wire transfers. These are two preferred payment methods for scam artists because they are relatively hard to trace once payment is sent and retrieved by the recipient.
Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or