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National Consumer Protection Week VT AG's Consumer Assistance Program

CONTACT: Janet Murnane, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 656-31873

March 4, 2013

Introducing National Consumer Protection Week 2013, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell is releasing a list of the top ten scams that targeted Vermont consumers in 2012. "In today's age of global communications and technology, it is no simple matter to track down and lock up international scammers targeting Vermonters. Even with modern investigative tools and collaboration between state and federal law enforcement, our best defense against these costly crimes is individual knowledge and awareness," said Attorney General William Sorrell." It is important that we know what to look for to defend ourselves, our families, our neighbors and friends against scams and fraud." In 2012, the top ten categories of scams reported to the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) were:

1. "Phishing" scams: 563 complaints were filed with CAP in 2012 regarding attempts to collect sensitive information, usually to access bank accounts or steal someone's identity. The most common were phony bank text messages ("Your account has been locked") and bogus offers by text message ("you won a $1000 gift certificate to ...."). Don’t reply to unsolicited texts!
2. Contest, sweepstakes or lottery scams: Vermonters filed 220 reports of receiving a bogus sweepstakes, contest or lottery notice or telephone call. Many of these scams originate overseas (Jamaica in particular) and all want some sort of up front payment to receive "winnings" that will never come. Never pay up front to receive winnings!
3. Bogus computer tech support scams, viruses, and ransomware: CAP received 95 complaints from consumers regarding phony tech support calls, viruses and other malware from fake e-mails and other sources, and "ransomware" that hijacked their computers unless they made some payment. Never click links in a strange e-mail, or allow remote access to your computer!
4. Imposter scams: 89 complaints from Vermont consumers in 2012 reported phone calls from someone posing as a family member in an emergency. A number of Vermonters lost significant money to this heartbreaking scam. Never wire funds unless you have verified the emergency!
5. Debt collection scams: CAP received 89 complaints from consumers in 2012 about debt collection scams. Scammers barrage consumer with telephone calls at their homes and workplaces, making false threats of imminent arrest, legal action or financial ruin. Most of these calls originate from overseas, using technology to hide their location, and can be difficult or impossible to stop. Never pay a harassing collector over the phone; demand proof of the debt!
6. Phony invoices targeting Vermont businesses: Vermont consumers and businesses are being targeted by scammers trying to steal money through bogus invoices. 87 reports of phony invoices were filed with CAP in 2012. Check your records carefully to make sure you really owe!
7. Security system scams: 76 reports were filed with CAP regarding “free” home security system scams in 2012. Always ask for local references for anyone offering to do work on your home! Call (800) 649-2424 or at (802) 656-3183 to see if CAP has received complaints about the business.
8. Other telemarketing scams: CAP received 73 complaints related to other or general telemarketing scams. Many of these involved unlawful robo-calls. Hang up on robo-callers!
9. Online advertising scams: 66 complaints were filed with CAP regarding some form of online classified advertisement. In some cases, consumers who had listed an item for sale were contacted by a scammer trying to send them a fake check, in others consumers responded to an ad for an item for sale or a rental unit that didn't exist. To be sure with on line sales, buy or sell only in cash, in person.
10. Loan scams: 56 complaints were logged at CAP regarding loan scams. These scams ranged from unlawful "payday" loans to phony advance-fee loans that took money from consumers without ever paying a dime. Beware of online lenders. Demanding fees before making a loan is illegal in Vermont!
What can you do if you have been targeted?
  • Cease all contact with the scammer - If you have been targeted by a scammer, do not continue contact. You will not get any useful information from continued contact.
  • Stop or report any fraudulent wire transfer of funds, checks or credit card transactions - If you have sent funds, contact the financial institution or wire transfer company immediately to report the fraud and halt the transaction.
  • Contact authorities - Report fraud to your local police and the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program (CAP). CAP tracks fraud reports and uses the information in its efforts to work with local, state and national law enforcement and consumer protection agencies.
  • Know how to spot a fraud - Vermonters' best defense against this predatory activity is to understand and avoid these scams altogether. Vermont consumers may contact the Consumer Assistance Program with any questions, concerns or requests. For more information call toll free in Vermont at (800) 649-2424 or at (802) 656-3183, or visit our website at www.uvm.edu/consumer/.
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