SHR
Barbara Bennett

Meet Barbara, LCSO's Chief ScamBuster

Who are you going to call if you get a call from someone wanting your hard earned money? Why, ScamBusters, that’s who.

All joking aside, over my last 13 years with LCSO, scams and frauds have become part of our everyday lives. My passion for being a huge pain in the ankle to criminals and scammers works well in my role as the coordinator of our Sheriff’s Auxiliary/Crime Prevention Unit. I love sharing ways that our citizens can become more in charge of their safety by knowing what is suspicious and what to do with that knowledge. As scammers have become more sophisticated in targeting their prey and using human behavior techniques to make you think they are credible, we have to become more street smart and beat them at their own game. We do that by recognizing their tactics and learning how to build a safety wall around our personal information and finances. Knowledge is power - and it is easier to prevent scammers from taking advantage of our inherent trust in people than to try recovering after they have taken our hard earned money. These criminal scammers can only be stopped by being aware that they are out there, understanding how they work, and being smarter than they are. This website has been established to provide information on what the scams are, how to recognize a scammer and how to be smarter than the scammer. If they can’t get our money - they have to give up. Let’s stop them in their tracks. Let’s all be ScamBusters!

Barbara EJ Bennett
970-682-0597
bennetbe@co.larimer.co.us
Coordinator - Sheriff's Auxiliary/Crime Prevention Unit
Larimer County Sheriff’s Office

P.S. If your group would like a scam presentation, give us a call or email to set it up. We love spreading the word! Also, feel free to send out this link to friends and family!


 

 

Grandparents scam alert

 

Overview

Using the very strong devotion to grandchildren, scammers will pretend to be your grandchild (Hi, grandma/pa - and you respond with “is that you Jimmy?”) They spin a tale about getting pulled over with dope in the car, running out of money, or other stories about being arrested.  They also will ask you not to tell their parents.  In some cases, they will even pass the phone over to the “police officer” so he can tell you what happened and how much the grandparents need to pay to get their grandchild released.  They also will stay on the line while you go to the bank or money card location to put the money on a card and provide the “officer” the code from the money card.  They won’t let you hang up because they don’t want you to call the parents and find out the grandchild is not in trouble.

 

Emotional Play

Love for grandchildren, protective, concern for their safety.

 

Target Audience

Seniors with grandchildren.

 

Additional Resources

Larimer County Office on Aging

 

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Craig's list scam alert

 

Overview

When you post an ad on Craig’s list with a price determined for the item, the scammer will contact you with an offer of more than you are asking, but telling you the item will be picked up by someone else.  They will send you a check, could be a cashier’s check, and tell you to deposit the check in your bank, keep your asking price and give the overage to the person picking it up for transportation cost.  The bank may not discover the check is fraudulent for a few days so you will have already given the item and overage amount to the person picking up the item, then find out from your bank that the check is no good, you are out the item you were selling plus the overage cash.  Best way to avoid these scams is never do business with someone offering you more than you are asking, or indicates they are out of state and will send someone to pick up the item.

 

Emotional Play

Financial motivation.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

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Census scam alert

Overview

Scammers use the phone, email or texts to ask you to give them your personal information for the Census.  This is not how the Census is being handled and they are just trying to get your personal info.  The official Census has sent out a printed letter telling you where to go to fill in the census online.  They will send you a second letter as well.  They will never call you, text you or email you for this info.

 

Emotional Play

Wanting to "do my part" and be a good citizen.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

Additional Resources

www.my2020census.gov

 

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COVID-19 scam alert

 

Overview

The last few months have brought unprecedented challenges for each person across our world,  This virus has kept people in their homes, closed businesses and schools, and has permeated the news waves with constant fear of being exposed to this devastating virus.  There are no known preventative medicines, vaccines or therapies, yet  scammers have used this as an opportunity  to sell you tests, preventative medicines,PPE’s,  miracle cure therapies, or the opportunity to be the  first in line to get the vaccine.  This is all bogus. When any legitimate remedies are available, the CDC will let citizens know.They also have developed  malware emails - one  saying it’s from John Hopkins University with a map of COVID-19 patients.  JHU does have such a map but they don’t send it out.  The scammer is spoofing the return address as JHU and gives you a link to click to see the map.  If you click on the link, they deposit malware on your computer to download all your personal information (bank, credit cards, etc.) We need to be very skeptical during this unsettling time and not fall for these scams.

 

Emotional Play

Fear, wanting to stay informed, curiosity.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

Additional Resources

Larimer County Department of Health and Environment

Centers for Disease Control

 

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Stimulus check scam alert

 

Overview

The pandemic has created many emotions - fear, unrest, isolation, financial worries, helplessness and many other feelings that typically are not as strong or active as they are during this time.  Many people are depending on the recovery/stimulus check that was promised by the Federal Government.  Scammers saw a way to capitalize on this to offer a way to get your stimulus check faster by giving them your bank details.

 

Emotional Play

Financial worries, fear, frustration.

 

Target Audience

All ages. Seniors and those who do not use direct deposit most vulnerable.

 

Additional Resources

Internal Revenue Service

 

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Jury duty scam alert

 

Overview

You receive a phone call or voicemail from a law enforcement official indicating you missed your jury duty and there is now a warrant out for your arrest.  You are told to call them back (if voicemail) or tell you that in order for this official to help you not get arrested, you need to put money on a card and give him/her the card numbers.  If you do so, he will ensure you are not arrested.  If you look up this official’s name on the LE website it is a legitimate name.  They may even have spoofed the LE phone number when calling you.  It could even be a Captain SoandSo calling - but know that it’s easy to spoof a number, it’s easy to pull a name off the public website, but it is not in their job description to know you supposedly missed jury duty nor to call you and ask for money to make the arrest warrant go away.

 

Emotional Play

Fear of being in trouble, protecting your good name.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

Additional Resources

Call your local law enforcement agency to verify any contact received by phone:

  • LCSO 970-416-1985
  • Fort Collins Police Services 970-221-6540
  • Loveland Police Department 970-667-2151
  • Estes Park Police Department 970-586-4000

 

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Charity scam alert

 

Overview

We all have our particular passions - maybe its animal welfare, supporting law enforcement or firefighters, fighting medical challenges, etc.  Scammers capitalize on these passions and use them to fraudulently take your money.  Usually it’s a call asking you to donate online via credit card. If  you request they send you info through the mail and you can send them a check, they indicate they can’t do that.  What they really want is your credit card or bank info.  If you want to support your charity of choice, go to their official website to donate safely - never on the phone.

 

Emotional Play

Love for a cause, supporting your passion, willingness to give to others.

 

Target Audience

All ages. Seniors are at particular risk because they are more trusting.

 

Additional Resources

United Way Guide to Charitable Giving

 

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Windows phone scam alert

 

Overview

You get a pop-up on your screen that locks it up.  It says you have a virus and you need to call a number to get it removed.  When you call, they want anywhere from $299 to $899 to fix your computer.  WAIT.  There is nothing wrong with your computer.  DO NOT call the number.  Just shut down your computer for a few minutes and when you turn it back on the pop-up will be gone.  

Or you get a phone call from “Microsoft” or “Windows” or “Apple” saying your computer has a virus and they need to get on your computer remotely to fix it.  They will charge you for this AND when you give them access they will download ALL your personal information such as credit cards, banking info, contacts, etc.  In the case of the phone call - hang up.  No one at these legitimate companies knows what is going on with your computer and would never call you to get access to your computer.

 

Emotional Play

Fear of losing access to your computer.

 

Target Audience

All ages - the scammers don't know who's receiving their calls or pop-ups until you interact with them.

 

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Delivery scam alert

 

Overview

You may receive a text, email or phone call indicating there is a delivery scheduled.  This could be from FED-X, UPS, USPS or Amazon.  They may say that before the package can be delivered, you need to pay the shipping or the price of the item.  You may not even remember ordering anything.  Or they give you a link to click on to get more information.  Since spoofing a legitimate company logo is easy to do, you should not rely on the message being legitimate if its asking you to pay for shipping or the price of the item.  If legit, these charges have already been paid when you ordered the item.

 

Emotional Play

Curiosity, material and/or financial gain.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

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Door to door scam alert

 

Overview

Someone comes to your door and offers to check your roof for damage from the recent storm.  When they tell you about the damage, they offer you a great deal for them to fix it for you.  Pay them half (or full) upfront and they will do the work for you.  STOP!  Even if they have a sign on their truck indicating they are a contractor, it is very easy to get a magnetic sign saying any company name.  These scammers go door to door after a weather incident to see if they can con you into believing you have damage.  If you think you might, you should call a reputable company to come out and check your roof.  Most cases, there is no damage but the scammer just wants your money.

 

Emotional Play

Fear of damage to property.

 

Target Audience

All ages, seniors often targeted.

 

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Email scam alert

 

Overview

An email hits your inbox from a seemingly legitimate company.  Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, credit card  company, a bank, or a high ranking official from another country.   They might say  there is a problem with your account and you need to click on the link they provide,  Or the high ranking official or other overseas person has a lot of money they would like to give you (you are deserving, they are dying and want to share their wealth, etc.)  Company names are easy to spoof and the scammer really wants your credit card number or your banking information (so they can deposit millions in your account.)  Remember - never click on a link and if it sounds too good to be true (like a stranger wanting to give you millions of dollars) it is not true.

 

Emotional Play

Fear of fraudulent use of your accounts, or financial benefit.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

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Extortion scam alert

 

Overview

These emails are very disturbing, threatening, accusatory and disgusting.  The scammer has a password you may have used in the past or makes one up to bluff.  Tells you s/he has access to all our contacts, social media sites and websites.  If you don’t comply s/he will post disgusting things on all your sites and to your contacts about you using porn and other things.  They tell you they have access to all your internet usage and they know you are watching porn.  They also give you a timeframe to provide them their ransom (typically $2,000 in bit coins) or they will unleash their destruction on you.

 

Emotional Play

Fear, embarrassment.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

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IRS scam alert

 

Overview

You owe the IRS back taxes!  Or so the caller says - either in person or by robocall.  Who wants to be guilty of that!  The problem with this is that the IRS never uses a phone call to let you know you owe back taxes,  They send you a letter through the US Post Office.  And they never ask you to pay through money cards or other sketchy methods.

 

Emotional Play

Fear of arrest, desire to be law abiding.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

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Sweepstakes scam alert

 

Overview

You have won!  Money!  Vacation!  Free lodging!  Sweepstake! Lottery!  WOW.  But guess what - you only have to pay a handling and shipping fee!  What a deal!  It’s like Christmas!  Oh wait - my Christmas presents don’t come with a shipping and handling fee.  These are just scammers trying to get money from you.  The old saying, “if it’s too good to be true, it isn’t true.”  If you won any of these prizes, it would be free.

 

Emotional Play

Excitement of getting a prize.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

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Online dating scam alert

 

Overview

These scammers prey on the human need for companionship.  They develop a nice profile and use one photo depicting a nice looking person (male or female) and place it on the various dating sites.  Sometimes you will notice awkward grammar when they start chatting with you.  They always have a reason for not meeting in person. They may say they are in the military and are going out of the country for a few months,  They may spend a month or two “courting”  you before they ask for money. They count on you being too embarrassed to report them when you figure out they are scammers.  Typically they are from overseas locations.

 

Emotional Play

Loneliness, romance, companionship, reluctance to report (embarrassment).

 

Target Audience

All ages. Seniors and grieving people most vulnerable.

 

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Robocall scam alert

 

Overview

You answer your phone or get a voice mail indicating your credit card, bank account have been used fraudulently and you must call back or hit a number on your keypad to speak to someone to help you.  They also indicate, if a sales call, that you can be taken off the call list by pressing a certain key.  The best way to deal with these calls is to not call back and do not press any number.  Just delete.

 

Emotional Play

Fear, they want you to act quickly without thinking.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

Examples

  • We need to speak to you about a warrant for your arrest

  • We need to speak to you about a person in your family missed court

  • We need to speak to you about fraudulent use of your credit card, or bank account

 

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Social security scam alert

 

Overview

You receive a call or email alerting you to the fact that your social security number has been used in fraudulent activities and has been placed on hold.  They want you to contact them to provide your personal information and money since you could be arrested or have legal action taken against you.  This is a scam.

Thieves are misusing the Social Security Administration’s authority in phone schemes to trick you into giving them money or personal information. They state there is a problem with your Social Security number or account. They claim there has been suspicious or fraudulent activity and you could be arrested or face other legal action. They even spoof SSA’s main customer-service telephone number on caller ID. Don’t believe them. Don’t provide any information. SSA employees will never threaten you for information or promise benefits in exchange for information. In those cases, the call is fraudulent.

Just hang up!

 

Emotional Play

Fear of arrest, fear of breaking the law, fear that someone is using your social security number fraudulently.

 

Target Audience

All ages, focused on people receiving Social Security benefits.

 

Resources

Social Security Fraud Hotline 1-800-269-0271

 

Example

Scammer message: Department of the Social Security Administration. The reason of this call is to inform you that your Social Security number has been suspended for suspicion of illegal activity. If you do not contact us immediately, your account will be deactivated. For more information about this case file, press 1 or call immediately our department number XXX-XXX-XXXX.

 

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Trial scam alert

 

Overview

There is a TV ad, a phone call or an email offering you a fabulous product for free - just pay a small amount for  shipping/handling. You have 30 days to try it! Sounds great, right? Well, in the really small print, it says you must return the product within 30 day otherwise you will be billed for the full amount. In addition, you will be signed up for a monthly subscription for a product every month and you will be billed at full price. The full price of the product is quite expensive and the 30 day window starts when you order, not when you receive the product. It could take up to two weeks to receive the product. The company has your credit card so will bill you continuously.

 

Emotional Play

Hope that the product will help you look younger, the product will help you lose weight, help prevent you from getting sick, etc.  Embarrassment to report.

 

Target Audience

All ages.

 

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COVID Unemployment Scam Alert

 

Overview

This scam has really hit during the COVID 19 pandemic to take advantage of those that have not applied for unemployment benefits. The scammer has and is misusing your personal information, including your Social Security number and date of birth. 

The unemployment payments usually are deposited to accounts the imposters control. But sometimes payments get sent to the real person’s account, instead. If this happens to you, the imposters may call, text, or email to try to get you to send some or all of the money to them. They may pretend to be your state unemployment agency and say the money was sent by mistake. This a money mule scam and  participating in one could cause you more difficulties.

 

Emotional Play

Fear of negative impact.

 

Target Audience

Anyone who hasn't applied for emergency unemployment benefits.

 

Resources

Federal Trade Commission - Unemployment Benefits

 

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If you have fallen victim to a scammer, remember these 5 important steps:

  1. Do not communicate further with the scammers/perpetrators.  They are criminals and some are dangerous. Never offer to travel to meet them to claim your money or prize.
  2. Contact your bank. If you think you are a victim of identity theft or account fraud you need to call your bank immediately and tell them what happened. The bank should have a fraud department and you can ask them to monitor your account for unusual activity. You can also ask them if it is necessary for you to close out your current accounts and open new ones. You can also refer to our Identity Theft Prevention page for more information.
  3. Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus. Place a fraud alert on your credit files. This will require credit agencies to contact you before opening any new accounts or making changes to your current accounts.  
    1. Equifax - 1-888-766-0008
    2. Experian - 1-800-525-6285
    3. Transunion - 1-800-680-7289
  4.  File a Police Report. Call your local law enforcement agency to report the fraud/scam. Ask how to get a copy of the report to submit to your bank, credit agencies and other financial institutions who may need proof that a crime was committed.  
  5. Remember: Keep a typed or written log of all conversations you have with the scammers, your bank, the credit agencies, and law enforcement. Include the date and time of when you had a conversation, who you spoke with (person's name and extension number if applicable), the phone number you contacted and the information you provided.