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The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation compiles publicly available scam, identity theft, and fraud complaints from around the Commonwealth via police logs, news outlets, and other sources, as well as through the Office’s Consumer Information Hotline. Below is a quantitative analysis of the log by category followed by tips on how to spot and avoid certain scams, identity theft, and fraud.

 

Pie Chart for scam log analysis July 2015 2

Craigslist Scams

What it looks like

There are many types of scams that happen on Craigslist: the buyer sees a healthy puppy online for purchase but when the buyer arrives to pay for and pick up the animal, the buyer notices that the animal is very sickly and unhealthy. A buyer sends $800 out of state via a money gram to purchase concert tickets, but the tickets never arrive in the mail. Another buyer responds to an ad for a job out of state but comes to find out that the scammer offering the job is only attempting to get their personal information. And yet another buyer pays a deposit to reserve a house for vacation rental, but it turns out that the “owner” is really just a scammer that took someone’s house photos off a legitimate vacation rental site and fraudulently posted it.

Tips to avoid Craigslist scams:

  1. Never wire funds to a distant buyer or seller via Western Union or any other carrier. Likewise, avoid making payments via prepaid card.
  2. Never give out personal financial information before researching the seller.
  3. Make sure you are using the real web address for Craigslist: www.craigslist.org
  4. In many instances, you may consider finding a reputable company through which to make your purchases — buying from an unknown source increases your risk of exposure to fraudulent activity.

What to do if you suspect a Craigslist scam:

  1. Report the incident to the local police department.
  2. Contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission to report the scam.
  3. Contact your bank or credit card to make sure your accounts are secure.
  4. Report the incident to Craigslist: abuse@craigslist.org

Door to door sales scams

What it looks like:

Two workmen show up to your front door offering to repave your driveway for an extremely low price because they have leftover asphalt from a previous job. You think to yourself, what a great deal, why not. Without looking at any credentials or signing anything you agree and they start the project. Shortly after starting they knock on your door and present you with a much more expensive bill than you agreed upon. What choice do you have but to pay them, the job has already started. A variation on this is that you pay a substantial amount of money up front as a deposit, and although the workers start the work, they leave early on and never come back.

Tips to avoid this door sales scam

  1. Ask for the credentials of the contractors and the company they represent.
  2. Before you get work done on your house or property, ask for at least three different quotes from reputable contractors.
  3. Get a written contract before they begin the work.
  4. Ask for the contact information of the previous job they came from where the leftover asphalt came from. Ask for references.
  5. Look on our website for more information about how to hire a contractor.

What to do if you are a victim of this scam

  1. Report the incident to the local police department.
  2. Contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission to report the scam.
  3. Contact your bank to put a stop payment on your check or dispute your credit card payment.

Electric/power supply company scams

What it looks like:

You get a call from someone stating that they are from the electric or power supply company. They are not using correct grammar and are also forceful and rude and state that if you do not pay them a specific amount of money they will shut off your power, or worse will have the police arrest you. They also state that they require payment through a specific payment type, like wiring the money or a prepaid card.

Tips to spot this scam

  1. Usually when a reputable company contacts you, they are not going to be rude or pushy.
  2. A reputable company will not threaten you or have you arrested for nonpayment.
  3. Major utility companies have specific procedures they must go through before they can shut off your utilities—they will not shut off your utilities without proper and written notice.
  4. Most companies will not require a specific payment type for you to pay your bill.

What to do if you receive a phone call scam like this

  1. Get the name and contact information of the person’s supervisor and call them to verify it is the company they say that they are.
  2. Report the incident to the Department of Public Utilities, which regulates utility companies and provides rules for utility shutoffs.
  3. Report the incident to the local police department.

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