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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > May 2014 > Imposters Target Consumers’ Wallets and Personal Data

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Imposters Target Consumers’ Wallets and Personal Data

From phony jury duty notices to fake ambulance bill collectors, Ohioans continue to report that scammers are posing as legitimate companies and government agencies to trick consumers into sending money and revealing their personal information.

A Toledo resident recently reported receiving a phone call at work. The caller claimed to be an attorney and explained there was a warrant out for the person’s arrest because he “failed to report for jury duty.” The “attorney” then requested money for court fees. The consumer said caller ID displayed the phone number of a local law office, suggesting the scammer may have used “spoofing” to disguise or change the number that appeared on caller ID. In reality, the scammer could have been calling from anywhere in the world.
According to another report to the Attorney General’s Office, two scammers visited the home of an elderly man in Northern Ohio. The individuals drove a red car with a local fire department sticker in the window. They explained the man owed $280 for an ambulance bill and needed to pay immediately. Since the consumer was recently taken to the hospital by ambulance, the story seemed believable. However, after providing payment, the consumer contacted the Better Business Bureau and local fire department and learned it was a scam. 
Other recent reports suggest scammers are also after personal information. A consumer in Trumbull County reported a suspicious email from a funeral home that claimed a relative had died. The point of this type of scam typically is to convince an unsuspecting recipient into clicking a link or opening an attachment. Instead of downloading a legitimate obituary or being taken to a legitimate funeral home’s website, opening the attachment or clicking on the link can infect the consumer’s computer with malicious software.
A malware-infected computer may send out spam emails or even log a user’s keystrokes in order to capture personal data such as credit card account numbers or passwords. 
Since imposter scams have many variations and target many consumers of all ages and backgrounds, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office warns Ohio residents to always be on the lookout for suspicious telephone calls and emails. Before responding to an unexpected email or phone call, contact the appropriate agency or business using a number you know to be legitimate and confirm that the source is trusted.
For example, instead of opening an attachment from a “funeral home,” look up the telephone number of the legitimate business and inquire as to whether it would have sent such a notice. In addition, some companies and government agencies may post scam warnings on their official websites to inform consumers that the agency or business is the subject of an imposter scam.
If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by visiting or calling 800-282-0515.