SCAM ALERT: BEWARE OF “COURIERS” COLLECTING CASH IN FAMILY EMERGENCY SCAM

BURLINGTON – Attorney General T.J. Donovan is warning Vermonters about a new variation of the family emergency scam in which scammers are demanding that cash be handed over in person to a “courier.” By presenting a fake emergency in which their loved one needs help getting out of trouble, scammers pressure panicked family members, including grandparents, into acting before they can realize it’s a scam. Until recently, scammers took a hands-off approach in collecting money, demanding gift cards, wire transfers, or virtual payments. Now, the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) is receiving reports that scammers are enlisting “couriers” to collect cash directly from unsuspecting family members at their homes to resolve the fake emergency. Vermonters who receive these calls should resist the urge to act immediately and take steps to verify the caller’s identity.  

Scam Warning: In-person courier money retrieval scam. Slow down. Take steps to verify. Never give money to parties you cannot verify.

These scenarios are designed by scammers to be emotional and high pressure. If you are presented with this type of scenario—pause; hang up the phone; and call a friend or family member to verify. Do not give money to someone coming to your home. Instead, call local law enforcement and the Consumer Assistance Program to identify and report the scam.

Attorney General Donovan

While the family emergency scam has long plagued Vermonters, CAP is raising awareness about the spread of “couriers” coming to Vermonters’ homes to collect cash. CAP has received 216 reports of family emergency scams since the beginning of the year. In the last week, CAP has received 4 family emergency scam reports from Vermonters who were told that an individual or a “courier” would retrieve cash from them at their homes—3 of these scams resulted in monetary loss. Common elements of this scam include:

  • Claims of a “gag order” being in place which requires secrecy.
  • Cash is needed to pay for a “bond” or a “bail bond agent.”
  • A loved one was involved in a “car accident,” sometimes related to traveling for a COVID-19 test.

CAP has found that scammers are becoming more sophisticated in their contacts and appear to be using internet searches and public social media profiles to research the locations of family members. By searching telephone numbers and addresses on the internet and scanning popular social media sites, scammers can learn about familial relationships, ages, and geographic locations. Scammers then use this information to make the scam seem credible.

CAP advises Vermonters to slow down and follow a plan to not get scammed. Use the SLOW method in urgent situations:

S – SLOW DOWN. Scammers pressure you to act urgently. Take time to regain your calm.
L – LOG THE CONTACT. Write down the phone number of the contact and disengage.
O – ONE CALL. Make one call to a primary contact, such as a friend or family member, and discuss the incident.
W – WHO CARES? Call CAP to identify and report scams at 1-800-649-2424.
Slow down and follow a plan to not get scammed.

S – SLOW DOWN. Scammers pressure you to act urgently. Take time to regain your calm.

L – LOG THE CONTACT. Write down the phone number of the contact and disengage.

O – ONE CALL. Make one call to a primary contact, such as a friend or family member, and discuss the incident.

W – WHO CARES? Call CAP to identify and report scams at 1-800-649-2424.

If you or someone you know has lost money to this scam, contact law enforcement and report the scam to CAP at 1-800-649-2424. Learn more about family emergency scams by watching CAP’s Avoiding the Family Emergency Scam video and reviewing steps to verify at https://ago.vermont.gov/cap/family-imposter/.

Reference: https://ago.vermont.gov/blog/2022/06/02/scam-alert-beware-of-couriers-collecting-cash-in-family-emergency-scam/

When Love is a Scam

By Crystal Baldwin

Love fills us with joy, lifts us up, and makes us feel alive. As determined by a recent Stanford University study, for many, love is found online.  

Says "Click for Love" with Heart and Clouds

Technological advances and the move of our social lives and networks to online platforms has shifted the dating world to unchartered territory–online dating websites (Match, Zoosk, OurTime, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid, eHarmony), dating apps (Bumble, Tinder, Hinge), gaming platforms (Words With Friends, Sociable, Yahtzee with Buddies) and unassuming networks (Facebook, Instagram). As if the dating world were not challenging enough to navigate. Now, those looking for love must also learn how to create a true connection through tech, while avoiding scammers.

New data from the Federal Trade Commission show that more consumers than ever report falling prey to romance scammers

Consumers reported losing $547 million in 2021 alone.

Reported losses to romance scammers were up nearly 80 percent compared to 2020.

Federal Trade Commission
Avoiding the Romance Scam Video – Learn more at ago.vermont.gov/cap/romance-imposter

At the end of last year, our office released a video and toolkit alerting Vermonters about imposter romance scams that can take place on dating platforms. Before looking for love online, check out the video and tools we created to help you to identify unscrupulous love interests and relationships of confidence.

You can find love online and avoid scams. Print out our helpful verification flyer and reference it often.

To avoid romance scams...Search the internet to verify a person's identity. Never send money/personal information to someone you have not met in person. Don't trust anyone who: refuses to provide additional photos of themselves. Requests money for financial support. Refuses to chat with you through webcam. Provides excuses as to why you can't meet.
Tips to avoid romance scams by the Consumer Assistance Program

If you or someone you know has encountered a scam in Vermont, report it. Use CAP’s online scam reporting form and visit the our scam recovery webpage.  

Help us stop these scams by sharing this information with those you care about. 

Resources: FTC.gov, news.stanford.edu

Introducing: Romance Scam Prevention Videos

By Crystal Baldwin

Anyone who has overheard the conversation of online streaming video game players on opposite sides of the globe knows that real and true friendships can form online between parties that have never met before. As shared in the following open letter, this is how scam prevention advocate Pat McCarty’s online relationship began just two years ago.  

:30 – Avoiding the Romance Scam video. Hear the whole story at ago.vermont.gov/cap/romance-imposter

From Pat McCarty:
Until it happens to you, it’s impossible to understand; a man or woman freely sending money to someone they’ve never met in person. But I’m here to tell you, even the most cynical, worldly, educated, and discerning person can, and does, get scammed!  

There are hundreds of different scams out there, I got caught up ‘catfished’ into a ‘Romance Scam’ that crippled me financially, undermined my self-confidence, and ended up breaking my heart. I was a 58-year-old, recent divorcée after a 30 year marriage, living on my own for the first time in my life. I’m a college graduate, fairly bright, cynic, who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. But, I’m also a Christian woman, who tries to help those in need, and THAT is what my scammer preyed upon—my compassion for others.  

I was not out looking for a mate, date, or companion on some dating site. I was playing Words With Friends online, which I often did. And that is where this scammer targeted me. The conversation was very generic at first, but slowly, over weeks, developed into an online friendship. From there, it took a turn into a private chat room, and then he had me right where he wanted me! It’s a long twisting story, but ended with me selling all my gold jewelry, sending every spare cent I had to him, as these scammers are polished and sophisticated, they have a plausible story for EVERYTHING! At the point I actually sold my car, my only transportation, to “help” him. I knew I’d ‘jumped the shark,’ and started doing some digging myself!  

What I found was heartbreaking, infuriating, and devastating.  

:60 – Avoiding the Romance Scam video. Hear the whole story at ago.vermont.gov/cap/romance-imposter

That was 2 years ago. After some time, good therapy, and scam-specific education, I no longer see myself as a victim, but as a SURVIVOR! My life is mine again, my finances are healthy again, and I’ve taken back my power by volunteering at a Fraud Watch call-in center, advising others how to get out of scams like mine and so much more. With literally hundreds of scams out there, and new ones popping up daily, I’m so honored to help others get out of their scams and find THEIR power again. And, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that literally ANYONE can be scammed! I hear stories every day of those who thought it would NEVER happen to them. Knowledge is power. Learn all the red flags and warnings….BEFORE it  happens to you!  

As Pat relays, enlisting in a scam-specific education to learn more about scams in order to stop them, is the best defense against scams. Today, our office announced the release of the Avoiding the Romance Scam prevention video (embedded throughout this post in varying lengths), an effort produced here in Vermont, based on true accounts of scams experienced by our neighbors like Pat. Help protect yourself and others by taking time to watch the video. Review the information on our website and encourage those you care about to learn more about scams and prevention strategies to stop them.  

Avoiding the Romance Scam video. Learn more at ago.vermont.gov/cap/romance-imposter

Learn more at ago.vermont.gov/cap/romance-imposter

Read more blogs about romance scams

Report Scams:  
If you or someone you know has encountered a scam in Vermont, report it. Use CAP’s online scam reporting form.   
 
Help us stop these scams by sharing this information with those you care about.