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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Scams And What To Watch Out For!

There are a number of people out there trying to rip off our Douglass alumni and the people of Riverview. They sound like this:

"Somebody in Nigeria or some other African Country needs your help to transfer thousands or millions of dollars out of that country. They need your help to make the transfer."

"You've won thousands or millions of dollars in a foreign lottery.. all you have to do is pay the taxes or the processing fees to get the money."

"You may also get an offer for the product you're selling on E-BAY, that sounds too good to be true."

" The roofer working on your house, may also want either most or all of the money up front to do the job."

" The landlord you're renting from, may not be able to show you what he's done with your security deposit."

"You can get a free copy of your credit report by going to a popular website that advertises on TV all the time."

"Somebody calls from what sounds like a familiar charity, saying they need your contribution for their agency."

These are all ripoffs, and in my job as a consumer-investigative reporter, I have done stories on them all. Here's what I learned to watch out for, and what you need to do if you or your family and friends run across them..

NIGERIAN SCAM: The person who's emailed you, says they're an official in Nigeria or some other African company and they need your bank account number to transfer millions of dollars out of that country to keep the government from confiscating it. TRUTH IS, the person who's called you or sent you a letter is sitting in a "boiler room" in Nigeria, mailing list in hand, and contacting everybody on the list. He's fishing for a bite, somebody to buy his line, that he needs your bank account numbers. There are no funds to transfer, and if you give him your information, he'll use it to drain your bank account dry, or use your Social Security number to steal your identity. DON'T FALL FOR THIS RIPOFF.

FOREIGN LOTTO OR LOTTERY SCAM: You've been told you've won some lotto or lottery in Canada, Spain, France, Mexico, the Bahamas or some other foreign country. You can't recall actually playing a lottery in that country. The lotto company sends you what looks like a real check to cover processing fees, taxes or other requirements to get the thousands or millions of dollars, and you're told to cash the check, keep a small amount of it, and then Money-Gram the remainder to some adddress in Canada for taxes or processing fees. TRUTH IS, the check is phony, no matter how real it looks (checks are easy to print on any home computer). If you cash the check and send the money off, your bank will be calling in a few days, telling you the check has come back from the Federal Reserve as a phony check, and "when can you come in to pay the bank back the money you got from it?" If you win a lottery, you never have to pay taxes (they're taken out of the winnings before you get a check). Besides that, it's illegal for people in the United States to play foreign lotteries.
EBAY SCAM: The person who has bid on your product for sale, sends you money orders for much MORE than you're selling the product for. You're told to cash the money orders, take out the money for the product, and send the buyer back the money that's left. TRUTH IS, this is a new Nigerian scam. The money orders are fake, and the money you've just sent to the buyer is lost forever. DON'T CASH THE MONEY ORDERS UNTIL YOU'VE CHECKED THEM OUT AT THE POST OFFICE.

ROOFER/HANDYMAN SCAM: The roofer or home repairman wants either 50%, 75% or sometimes ALL of the money up front, before he starts your home remodeling job. TRUTH IS, the Tennessee Contractors Board recommends paying a home remodeler ONLY ONE THIRD of the total amount of the contract up front. Do not sign a contract if the contractor wants more than one-third down of the total amount of the contract up front, and don't let him pressure you into any more. Shop around for a LICENSED contractor first; they won't ask for more than a third up front because they've got good credit at the materials warehouse. You're also entitled to see receipts where the contractor has made purchases for your particular job.

SECURITY DEPOSIT: The landlord says you're not entitled to your security deposit back whenyou move out. TRUTH IS, Tennessee state law says, security deposits are ONLY to be used for damages when a tenant moves out. NOTHING ELSE. During the term of the lease (if you don't have a lease, the law says you have a month-to-month lease), Tennessee law says the landlord has to provide you with a bank account number where he has your deposit placed (although you won't be able to take any money out of the account, he still has to have the account). When you move out, if the landlord plans to keep all or part of the deposit, BY LAW he has to provide you with a written list of damages against the deposit amount.

FREE CREDIT REPORT: Commercials for Free Credit say you can get a copy of your credit report free of charge. TRUTH IS, the only way you can get a FREE credit report from this company, is if you sign up for its program, which costs money. After I did a story on them two years ago, the company started telling people in its advertising that a "subscription" was required to get the FREE credit report. (that was after one of their customer service representatives cussed me out). You CAN get a free credit report, that will not cost you ANYTHING, by going to That website takes you to the three credit reporting agencies where your report is available free of charge.

CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS: You get a call one day from a charity that SOUNDS like one you've heard of before, asking for donations. TRUTH IS, most of the money you give these sound-alike charities go to the charity's fund-raising efforts, NOT the programs to help the people you think you're helping. Go to to find out how much the charity gives to fundraising, and how much actually goes to programs.

I will post more of these scams and ripoffs as I get them.

---Calvin Sneed