Scam Alerts!

Report a Scam

Report a scam here!

If you have lost money or provided personal information as the result of a scam, the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) will contact you to discuss your options and describe the assistance we can provide. This may include referring you to local, state or federal law enforcement offices.
To report suspicious telephone calls, texts, e-mail, letters or visits that did not result in your loss of money or disclosure of personal information, 

OCP will forward your report to federal agencies (such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center) that have the resources to investigate and prosecute the worst con artists. While you will not receive feedback from those agencies about your specific experience, rest assured that the information you and others provide is important to these agencies in tracking down perpetrators, developing evidence and bringing enforcement actions. 

OCP will also use the information you provide to alert others about the latest scams.

Recently Reported Scams

The following scams have recently been reported by residents in Howard County. We have provided general descriptions of what you may encounter if a con artist contacts you.

Back to School Scams

The high school diploma scam

For those of us who didn’t complete high school in a traditional setting, programs are available to finish coursework and earn a diploma. But scammers have identified ways of capitalizing on people seeking to earn their degrees later in life, and falling for one of these scams costs victims money and time and still results in no diploma. If you or a loved one are going back to school to complete a high school degree, watch out for these red flags:

  • You have to pay for a diploma. If you have to pay for your diploma, it is a scam. You may have to pay for classes and testing in a legitimate program, but -- once you earn it -- you will never have to pay for the diploma itself.
  • You can earn a diploma in a day or two. If there are no classes or tests involved, and if you can earn your degree from “life experience” or previous work experience, it is a scam. A legitimate program will require that participants demonstrate excellence via coursework and exams. 
  • They claim to be affiliated with the federal government. Legitimate educational programs are affiliated with state governments.
  • You can take an online test to earn your degree. High school equivalency tests are never administered online. All high school equivalency tests must be: administered in person, proctored, closed-book and scheduled for specific dates and times

Going back to school to finish earning a high school degree is a worthwhile endeavor. However, to avoid getting scammed, always check in with your local community college to see what option is best for you. Your local community college can also help you decide whether you want to take an equivalency test or a class from a legitimate operator.

The “student tax” scam

Imagine that while you are packing up your things to move into your new dorm, you receive an urgent phone call from the IRS. The “agent” informs you that you did not fill out your tax forms properly and you failed to pay your student tax, which helps pay for your public university. He notifies you that if you do not pay it immediately, you will not only be prevented from taking classes but that you will also face imprisonment!

While IRS imposter scams, like this scenario, can happen at any time of year, they tend to spike when scammers spot an opportunity to strike. Fortunately, knowing the telltale signs of an IRS imposter can help you steer clear of this scam.

  • The IRS calls to inform you that you owe money. If you receive a phone call from the IRS about an issue the agency has not contacted you about before, hang up; it is a scam. The IRS will always reach out through the mail first.
  • The caller is demanding payment through gift cards or a wire transfer. The IRS, along with any other government agency, will not accept gift cards as a form of payment. In addition, the IRS will never demand payment through a wire transfer.