Spot the Scam & Avoid Common Frauds
The Office of Consumer Protection educates and alerts Howard County residents and businesses about common scams and schemes. The below alerts provide examples of common and ongoing scams. Please also visit our YouTube playlist for our library of video alerts, programs and webinars in English, Korean and Spanish.
Can you spot an imposter scam?
An imposter pretends to be someone you know, the government, a company you do business with, a debt collector, sweepstakes or lottery, or even a charity you trust. Imposters try to steal your money or your personal information by calling you on the phone or sending a letter, email or text. They may ask you to pay them with a gift card, use a payment app, or wire money, or deposit a check before making the payment. Never send money to people you don’t know – or when you are not sure if they are who they say they are. Here are some common imposter scams.
IRS Child Tax Credit Scam
With Child Tax Credit payments now going out to eligible taxpayers, scammers may attempt to contact you by phone, email, text, or on social media to verify your information and access funds in your name. The IRS does NOT contact taxpayers by email, text messages or social media to request personal or financial information. View the IRS video to learn more.
Tax Identity Theft
Crooks can file phony tax returns using your stolen personal information (like Social Security numbers) to get a tax refund from the IRS. Or, they may use your Social Security number to get a job, or claim your child as a dependent on a tax return.
Tax identity theft victims typically find out about the crime when they get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed in their name, or receive IRS records that show they received wages from an employer they don’t recognize. If you get a letter like this, don’t panic. Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
"Phishing" refers to fraudulent emails and websites that impersonate a business to trick you into giving out your personal information. Don't reply to email, texts, or pop-up messages that ask for your personal or financial information. Don’t click on links within them either – even if the message seems to be from an organization you trust. It isn’t. Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through insecure channels. For more information
Scams Targeting Older Adults
Financial scams often target older adults because they are thought to have a significant amount of money in their accounts. Because financial scams often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute, they are considered “low-risk” crimes. Fraud aimed at older adults are becoming more creative as criminals adapt to what’s in the news, what is trending on social media or current events.
Scams can be devastating to vulnerable older adults, who may not have the time or ability to recoup their losses. It's not just wealthy adults who are targeted; low-income adults are also at risk of financial abuse, and it is not always strangers who perpetrate these crimes. Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by family members, most often adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and other caregivers.
Scams Targeting Veterans & Servicemembers
Veterans and Servicemember who have proudly served, or are currently serving, our country are constant targets for con artists. Families of veterans and servicemembers are also targeted. Click below to learn more about examples of recent scams.
Thousands of internet users fall victim to online romance scams each year. Unfortunately, these scammers are out to steal your money, not your heart. In a recent survey, romance scams ranked first in total reported financial losses. These scams can be incredibly convincing and they are increasingly being uncovered by users on dating websites and social media platforms.
Driveway Paving and Door-to-Door Solicitor Scams
You are visited by a solicitor who says that he's doing work in your neighborhood and has leftover paving products that can be used on your driveway for a reduced price. The “product” turns out to be an oil paint that runs off in the next rain.
Or, a solicitor may claim your trees are diseased and offer to trim off the affected limbs or remove the tree. He will request money up front for work to be done the next day but won't return to do the job. Others offer “free” water testing and claim that you need a filtration system to ensure your water is healthy.
Most of these “traveling’” contractors are not properly licensed, do not provide the services offered or misrepresent the need for their services. Some have solicited work to “case” homes for burglaries. Read OCP's tips on home improvement and clean up scams for more information.
Fake Check Scams
You sold an item on eBay or another online reseller and the buyer sends you a check for more than the agreed upon price. The buyer asks you to go ahead and cash the check and in the meantime, send back the difference. Weeks later, you learn that the check was a fake. For more information