Consumer Alert: 5 Scams to Watch for This Summer in North Carolina

Stuck in a scam

The weather is heating up, and so are many fraud schemes. It seems like when one scam is revealed and wiped out, several more emerge like the mythical hydra – cut off one head, two grow in its place. In today's consumer alert notice, we show you five emerging scams to watch out for this summer in North Carolina!

#1 Nepal Earthquake Charity Scam
Charity scams are not unique, but whenever there is a major disaster, fraudsters emerge to take advantage of your compassion. Many charity organizations accept both cash donations and gifts-in-kind. Some scammers will run off with the funds. But gifts-in-kind are also subject to scam. These include food, clothing, equipment, medical supplies, automobiles and other goods. In a scam, these items never make it to the intended recipients. Be sure to vet thoroughly any charity before you give money or gifts-in-kind unless it's a non-commodity like the United Way or the Red Cross.

#2 Grandma Help Me – iTunes
We wrote about the grandparent scam before, but now there's a new twist. This scam starts with a “grandchild” calling you for help. The call is not from a relative but a scammer. The fake grandchild says they're in jail, stranded or injured. Extreme versions say the relative was kidnapped. They ask for a Green Dot cash card or similar. But the new version uses Apple iTunes gift cards. One Charlotte senior was taken for more than $20,000. Hang up on calls like these and before you panic, call another relative to confirm your grandchild is okay. Don't send any money or gift card codes!

#3 Senior Sweepstakes Scams
Over the last three years, this scam has generated 250,000 complaints and is rearing its ugly head again. The fraud starts with a letter with official looking seals and identification numbers. They offer a cash prize, cruise or vacation, jewelry or another exciting freebie. Many of these scams specifically target seniors. To claim the prize, you have to send a $20-$30 fee. To date, the FTC estimates that victims have sent more than $25 million to these scammers with nothing to show in return. Never pay for a prize, don't fall for an urgent demand for money and call the FTC with questions.

#4 Phony Weight Loss Scams
The weight loss industry is a $60 billion industry in the US alone, so it's easy to see why consumers are tempted by scams promising quick loss of pounds. These scams usually begin with an email from a friend recommending a weight loss program and a link. It may also say something like it's been recommended by Oprah or another celebrity. The biggest perpetrator of this scam, according to the FTC, is Sale Slash. The company uses agents that send out email messages from hacked email accounts to promote ineffective and expensive diet pills. Don't click links like these – just delete the emails!

#5 Consumer Complaint Scam
This last scam tries to scam small business owners. Ironically, this fraud fakes FTC notices to take advantage. As a business owner, you get an email from the “FTC” that claims a complaint has been made against your business. It says your business is in violation of the Consumer Credit Protection Act and that a formal investigation has been launched. It gives you a link to download the “complaint.” The link or any attachments install malware on your computer. Delete any emails like this immediately. If you are the subject of a complaint, you'll be mailed an actual letter. These are scams!
If you've been the victim of a scam, be sure to report it to the North Carolina Department of Justice for investigation.
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