February 26, 2007
There is a warning from the local Federal Bureau of Investigations office that Internet and sweepstakes scams are getting more sophisticated, and more and more people locally are falling prey.
An Earlysville woman conned out of thousands of dollars told her story on Monday, hoping that her message prevents others from the same fate.
"I was supposed to have won 4.5 million dollars," said Evelyn Riner who was in turn conned out of $10,000.
62 year-old Evelyn Riner received a letter in the mail confirming she was a winner. Even though it sounded too good to be true, Evelyn called the 800 number and was told she won the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes. She then consulted her children.
"My dad's dream was oh boy I finally get to stop working," said Evelyn's daughter Evelyn Kidd.
A team of con artists were so convincing, Evelyn's daughter sent the scammers money through Western Union, which they said they needed for taxes.
The scammers also claimed they needed even more money for insuring the funds, holding fees, and delivering the check.
"I lost around $10,000 dollars," said Riner.
Evelyn never saw one penny of that $4.5 million and now is out $10,000 of her own.
"They will make you think you are going to get this money, all you do is abide by what you have to send once you send the last payment they will see that the money is at your door within two hours," said Riner.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations office in Charlottesville said they receive 2-3 calls a day from people who have fallen victim to scams like this one.
"I've seen all types of people all levels of education and age who have fallen victim to a similar type of scheme, and often times they are dealing with someone on the other end who is a very professional liar," said Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Steve Duenas.
The FBI said these professional liars are becoming more sophisticated, and rarely get caught.
Duenas warns anytime someone is asking you to pay money to get money, that it is probably a scam. But if you are still unsure you can call their office at (434) 293-9663.
The attorney general's office has also set up a consumer hotline to report scams and get more information. That number is 1- 800-451-1525.
Top 10 Scams Reported to Attorney General McDonnell (This from the Attorney General’s website):
1. Federal Grant Scams. This scam starts with consumers receiving a phone call with news that they have been selected by a government agency to receive a free grant of thousands of dollars that does not have to be repaid. The caller then asks for the consumer's bank account information so the money can be transferred into the account. Don't give your bank account information to anyone you don't know.
2.Telemarketing/Telephone Scams. Although most telephone sales pitches are made on behalf of legitimate organizations offering bona fide products and services, there are many unscrupulous companies involved in telemarketing fraud. Don't give your credit card, checking account or Social Security number to unknown callers. Don't pay for something merely because you'll get a "free gift." Get all information in writing before you agree to buy. Check out a charity before you give. Ask how much of your donation actually goes to the charity.
3.Foreign Lottery Scams. Scam operators - often based in Canada - are using the telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to buy chances in high-stakes foreign lotteries from as far away as Australia and Europe. Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch.
4.Identity Theft. Report evidence of fraud to your financial institution immediately.
5.Sweepstakes Scams. Under the Virginia Prizes and Gifts Act, if you are told that you have won a prize or gift, you do not have to submit to a sales pitch or pay any money in order to receive your prize or gift. You must be given your prize or gift within ten days, without any obligation. If you receive a notice that you are eligible to win or receive a prize, Virginia law requires that you be told what the prize is worth. Do not pay to collect sweepstakes winnings. Legitimate sweepstakes do not require you to pay "insurance," "taxes" or "shipping and handling charges" to collect your prize.
6.Advance Fee Frauds If you receive a letter from Nigeria asking you to send personal or banking information, do not reply in any manner. Send the letter to the U.S. Secret Service or the FBI.
7.Medicare Scams. Most Medicare payment errors are simple mistakes and are not the result of physicians, providers, or suppliers trying to take advantage of the Medicare system. If you have a question or concern regarding a Medicare claim submitted on your behalf, you should discuss it directly with your physician, provider, or supplier that provided the service.
8.Phishing Scams. "Phishing" (also called "spoofing") occurs when thieves send an e-mail that appears to have been sent from the domain of a legitimate retailer, bank, credit card or insurance agency. In recent months, fraudsters have spoofed customers of Citibank, BestBuy, Earthlink, eBay, PayPal and even the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
9.Online Shopping Fraud. The most common forms of Internet fraud are credit card fraud and Internet auction fraud. Do not provide your credit card number unless the site is secure and reputable. Pay by charge or credit card. If you pay by credit or charge card online, your transaction will be protected by the federal Fair Credit Billing Act.
10.Home Improvement Fraud. Bogus and substandard services and products for the home are among the leading causes of consumer complaints nationwide. Seniors are especially vulnerable to this form of consumer fraud. Be suspicious of contractors who seek you out. Don't believe a contractor who tells you s/he has materials "left over from a job down the street" and s/he can pave your driveway or replace your roof for a "really low price."