Keep up with the latest trends and warnings in consumer fraud, identity theft and other issues that affect your wallet with this consumer blog. Our bloggers cover fraud, ID theft, credit, cell phones, used cars and other every other topic that affects consumers in today's world. Your comments and questions are welcome.
The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office, the prosecuting attorney for the City of St. Louis, is warning against a phone survey that could result in someone stealing your identity to take out a life insurance policy. Read for yourself.
It's an excellent press release that warns of some dire consequences - and not just identity theft - that could happen as a result of a life insurance policy being taken out in your name without your knowledge.
Consumers and reporters often ask, what is the best way to solve a problem if you think you've been ripped off or treated unfairly by a business?
There are several things you can do - but step one is to work with the company directly to try to work out a solution. You can do that over the phone first - that's easiest. If that doesn't work, try writing a letter. Remember not to be combative at first. Be professional, courteous and go out of your way to find something to compliment them on.
Of course, you can also file a consumer complaint with our office or hire a lawyer to pursue your legal options. Or do both - one does not exclude the other.
Missouri consumer writes:
I have an excellent credit score but am marrying someone with a poor score. Will his lower score have any influence on my score after we are married?
Credit scores are not contagious - in other words, being married to him won't make his poor score bleed over to yours. However, you will feel the effects if you all try to obtain joint credit, i.e. a credit card, mortgage or some other kind of loan. If you apply together, creditors will consider your history and his in determining whether you qualify and what kind of interest rates and other terms you get.
Also, if he has a bad habit of not paying his bills and continues that practice, and you now have joint accounts that get delinquent, your score will be affected.
We have a popular flyer we hand out at fairs and other public events that explains Missouri's No Call law and the rights consumer have in dealing with telemarketers. Some highlights:
- It's illegal for telemarketers to call you if you have asked them not to. If they do, you can file a complaint with our office.
- Calls can be made only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
- Before making a pitch, they must first tell you it's a sales call, the seller's name and what's being sold.
- It's illegal for telemarketers to misrepresent information.
- It's illegal for them to withdraw money from your bank account without your express, verifiable authorization.
As for bullet point #1, here's what to say to keep a telemarketer from calling again:
"I do not want your company calling me back. Now that I have told you this, you will be in violation of the law, and I will file a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General's office if you call me again."
For all the education we do about ID theft, you may wonder how all that personal information ends up in the hands of the thieves. Javelin Research, which does a massive identity theft study each year, crunched the numbers on how info is lost. Here is my summary of the findings from 2007:
39% Lost or stolen wallets, purses, mail
Consumers carry sensitive information in their purse or wallet, then it gets into the wrong hands. Or thieves steal mail that has sensitive info in it, like credit card payments, with CC account numbers and personal checks inside.
30% Business at fault
A business that houses our Social Security or credit card numbers loses them. It could be a data breach, where a laptop computer with sensitive data is lost. Or it could be sloppy security - like throwing away sensitive documents without shredding them. Or the business could have a crooked employee who misuses the information he has access to.
21% Friend, relative or self at fault
Someone the consumer trusts accesses their personal info. A friend or relative snoops through personal documents in the consumer's home. Or it could be a service provider - a maid, home health provider or construction workers. Or the consumer himself could fall for a phishing scam, where he gets tricked into giving out his personal info to a caller or e-mailer who convinces him there's a good reason to do that.
This is far lower than most would guess. In these cases, a hacker might break into a computer system or a home computer and raid personal info. Or a consumer might download a virus or keylogger program that steals their personal info or login info and sends it to a thief.
Moral of the story: most ID theft happens the old-fashioned way, not online. So next time someone says "I don't have to worry about ID theft, because I don't use the Internet," you can correct them.
Furthermore, in 60% of the cases, consumers could have done something to prevent their info from being lost. In other words, the prevention we talk about in our identity theft publication can go a long way toward protecting you.
Some of the most tragic cases we see in consumer protection involve funeral homes defrauding customers - or future customers.
AG Nixon announced a settlement in one such case this week. In Missouri you can buy a "pre-need" or "pre-paid" funeral, which means you buy it while you're still alive, so that you can pick out what you want and your loved ones don't have to worry about the bill.
Missouri law requires that the funeral home put 80% of that money into a trust fund, untouchable for any reason other than your funeral when you die. Consumer fraud comes in when the owners spend that money for other purposes. That means when you die, it's not there to pay for your funeral. And unfortunately, we have seen a number of cases.
In 2005, AG Nixon filed Operation Grave Concerns, a group of lawsuits and criminal charges against companies in the bereavement industry.
I often get questions from consumers like "How do I know if a charity solicitor is legit?"
Let's do a Charitable Giving 101. Here are our tips:
- Look into their finances at our Check-a-Charity site. You can search or see the full alphabetical list. There are more than 800 charities in our database. We have encouraged every charity that's legally registered in Missouri to participate. So if they're not in there, they are either uninterested or unregistered. Either is a red flag.
- We agree that at least 65% of a charity's money should be spent on its programs, rather than overhead like fundraising, salaries, bills, rent, etc. Never make a decision during a telemarketing call - always ask for written information by mail.
- Never give your credit card or bank info to a telemarketer who has called you. He or she could be an ID thief.
- Don't be pressured or guilted into a decision. It's your money! Only give when you're comfortable.
A good solution to all this: Plan your donations annually. Figure out how much you'll give and to whom. This way you're not trying to respond on the spot to phone calls and mailings.
The University of Missouri announced Tuesday June 19th it has entered into an agreement with the credit reporting agency Experian to offer credit monitoring services at a discounted rate.
While Mizzou is not picking up the entire cost of the credit monitoring service, the provisions allow for persons affected by the data breach, current students, faculty, staff, and retirees are all eligible to benefit from this agreement. The service provides for, among other perks, daily monitoring of all three credit bureaus, and $10,000 of identity theft insurance. There are numerous other companies that offer similar incentives to worried consumers who want to protect themselves, prices are usually between $12-$20 monthly.
However, as Travis has mentioned before, this is something you can do yourself with little to no out of pocket expense. Everyone is entitled one free credit report per year, per credit bureau (about one every 4 months). While this is not daily monitoring, it is free and a very good way to catch potential problems early.
Also, what you may not know is that the Attorney General's Office can assist you if you ever experience identity theft. Our office has helped hundreds of victims repair damaged credit reports as a result of ID Theft with no need to worry about filing an insurance claim or monthly fees.
Despite the arrest of a notorious spammer at the end of May, our office continues to receive complaints daily from consumers fed up with junk e-mail.
Here's a little unknown but logical tip to combat this invasion of your inbox: don't reply!
Many people believe replying to the email and requesting removal will help the situation. However, if the spammer receives a message from your email account it will alert their system that your address is a working address, resulting in - more spam!
Federal Trade Commission will take complaints on spam in general and specifically, unsubscribe links that do not work.
To help combat the issue in the meantime, you can establish a filter on your email program to delete the messages (many internet service providers are also offering this feature) or simply delete them yourself.
Stan needed a loan. Even though his credit wasn't the best, he was sure that someone would help him. Then one day, a company based in Jamaica offered Stan the money he needed. They told Stan the loan was all set and ready. All he needs to do is wire a few months back payments and a transfer fee and he would have his money. Stan, eager to receive his money, hopped over to his local Western Union and sent nearly two thousand dollars to Jamaica. The next day, Stan received a call from this loan company saying that he just needed to wire another thousand for insurance on the loan. Once again, Stan was off like a shot to send his hard-earn cash overseas. It wasn't until the loan company asked for another two thousand dollars that Stan got suspicious. He demanded a refund, and though the company said it would be sent in 30 days, it never came. This sort of situation is a simple variation of a Nigerian scam.
Consumers should never wire money to parties they do not know, especially out of the country. Companies like Western Union and Money Gram are not escrow services. Be wary of individuals or 'companies' that want you to wire your payments. Once that money is sent, it's as good as gone.
Have you seen those billboards and advertisements offering to buy your house? In this softer real estate market, you'll see more of them offering to rescue people from foreclosure or double house payments.
Some of these outfits are scammers who simply want to take your house without paying. How is that possible?
A quit-claim deed is one way. This is a document they might sneak into your pile of paperwork that essentially transfers ownership of the house to them - but it doesn't transfer the mortgage responsibility to them. So you no longer own the home, but you still have to pay for it. Avoid this scam by talking to a lawyer or your mortgage company before signing any new documents.
Many homeowners paid careful attention to the news today in anticipation that the Federal Reserve would cut interest rates. This adjustment may affect many homeowners who feel helpless as they struggle to make payments. Until homeowners feel the effects of those cuts they become more and more fearful of an impending foreclosure and stop communicating with their lender provider, as they are embarrassed, distraught and afraid.
This can be the start to the road of foreclosure. As many lenders warn, that trouble begins when homeowners don't discuss their inabilities to make payments. Banks advise that borrowers need to be proactive and express that they are not financially able to meet monthly mortgage fees. Countless homeowners are unaware that many lenders will work to delay payment deadlines and even make adjustments to loans. It is important for homeowners to voice their concerns before the first missed payment. And it is critical that homeowners first discuss with their lender all of the possible options that are available.
But be aware, as Travis warned in a previous blog, that there are scam artists that try to take advantage of people facing foreclosure. The cycle can stop; so don't be afraid to express any concerns with lenders before it gets too late.
If the so-called "super bug" has you super scared, you aren't alone. The staph infection that is almost completely antibiotic-resistant —known as MRSA — appears as a small infection or may look like tiny spider bite. Because of this, it can be misdiagnosed. MRSA can become more dangerous if, for instance, for people with weak immune systems, or those have had recent surgery. If these cases, infections can quickly worsen.
Recently, drug-resistant infections — including MRSA — have been in the headlines, as they have been linked to several deaths. It is important to know that staph infections can be spread by contact. But, you can contract an infection with more than just person-to-person contact; you can also pick-up the bacteria by other means, such as touching a contaminated surface.
Because many people who seek care at hospitals already have compromised immune systems, it would be natural for patients to have concerns if they are in an environment that is clean, sterile and free of germs.
That is exactly why the MO Legislature passed a bill that requires hospitals to report their healthcare related infections to the MO Department of Health and Senior Services. On its website, you can search the history of your hospital or compare hospitals regionally. While this doesn't put an end to the spread of staph infections, it should give you some peace of mind that your hospital is a safe environment in the event you are in need of medical attention.
All 3 credit bureaus have now instructions on their Web sites for how to place a security freeze on your credit file. AG Nixon sent out a recent consumer alert encouraging consumers to do this to prevent identity theft.
Here's how it will work, in general: -You can do it online, by phone or by mail. Cost is $5 to freeze your credit report, per bureau. Your file will stay frozen until you tell the bureaus to lift the freeze. You'll need to do this if you're applying for credit - buying a house, taking out a loan, etc. Lenders can't approve your application if they can't see your credit report. That's the case when it's frozen. When you freeze your file, each credit bureau will give you a PIN to lift the freeze should you need to. So let's say you decide to apply for a car loan with XYZ bank. When you apply for the loan, you'll also give the bank your PIN. That way they can see your file. If you want to lift the freeze so that everybody can see your file, each credit bureau will do that for another $5. You can lift it permanently or temporarily, whichever you choose.
Technorati Tags: finance, scams, credit bureau, credit file, credit freeze, credit report, credit reporting agency, equifax, experian, identity theft, security freeze, transunion, moagoconsumer, consumer protection
Missouri consumer writes:
I have a collection company asking for a payment on a debt that I believe is outside of the statute of limitations. What date or occurrence starts the countdown?
With unpaid debts, keep in mind there are different aspects to this.
- Statute of limitation - this varies depending on the type of debt. If the SOL has elapsed, all that means is that the company can't sue you over the debt. But they can still call you attempting to collect, hoping you'll pay voluntarily.
- There are limits on how debt collectors can contact you. Here is a summary of your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). You can file consumer complaints against debt collectors with our office.
- Entry on your credit report - even if the statute of limitations has passed, you may still have the item on your credit report. Negative items can stay on your report for no more than seven years.
Do you get much junk mail? Pre-approved credit card offers? Most consumers don't know you can opt out of a lot of that stuff.
For junk mail, go to the Direct Marketing Association site or write: DMA Mail Preference Service PO Box 643 Carmel, NY 10512
For pre-approved offers of credit and insurance, you can opt out online or by callng 1-888-5OPTOUT (567-8688).
If this is any indication, we ran an anti-mail fraud project last year called Senior Sting 2006. During the month of May, 300 senior citizens from across Missouri kept all their junk mail. It amounted to 8,000 pieces.
With foreclosures up around the country, this is bound to happen: as a tenant, you are renting property, and your landlord starts having trouble making the mortgage payment. If he or she is facing foreclosure, the lender may take over the property. If that happens, the lender will most likely want you out.
Can they do that? Probably. If the new owner is not required to honor the lease, that means you have no lease. And under Missouri law when you have no written lease, a month-to-month lease is assumed. And either party can cancel that lease with 30 days written notice.
So the best advice is: if you find out your landlord has sold or been foreclosed upon, talk to the new owner ASAP and find out if they intend to stay in the rental business or get out. If they say they want out, start looking for a new place to live - don't wait for the 30 days termination notice.
We've blogged on this topic in the past, covering paying in advance for funeral services.
AARP magazine has a big story in the January-February edition with examples of scams and other problems that face consumers who have bought pre-paid, or pre-need, funerals.
And there's news out of Illinois that people who have pre-paid for their funerals may have trouble accessing that money because the fund is running low.
AG Nixon filed a series of lawsuits in 2005 against companies in the bereavement industry for similar problems with pre-paid services. At least one of the funeral home owners we targeted is serving prison time.
You can file consumer complaints on this topic with our office or with the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.
Make no mistake - planning now for your funeral service is a great idea. It should be part of your end-of-life plans, regardless of your age. Find out more about the decisions we all need to make in our publication Life Choices.
How many of those mailings have come to your house that say your car warranty is about to expire?
AG Nixon just announced lawsuits and settlements with several companies in that business. The violations we're alleging:
- They mislead consumers into thinking their warranties are about to expire, when they're not. These companies don't know when your factory warranty expires.
- They mislead you into thinking they're with the manufacturer, when they're not. They're 3rd-party companies.
- They don't cover what they say they will.
- They fail to disclose important requirements - including one example where a consumer found out he had to use a certain brand of oil to get reimbursed for repairs.
Anybody selling these "extended service contracts" has to be registered with the Missouri Department of Insurance. If you're considering one of these companies, you can check with Insurance to see if they're registered at 1-800-726-7390 or here.
FYI, these are technically not warranties. That term applies to the free warranty that comes when you buy a product. These extended warranties should actually be called extended service contracts.
As you read in yesterday's post, AG Nixon has taken legal action against several companies that send out those extended warranty offers in the mail, claiming your car's factory warranty is about to expire.
Here is a column by a consumer reporter at MSNBC about these companies. While this is a national problem, we are discovering that for some reason, many of the companies in this business are based in the St. Louis area. Our sweep of lawsuits, BTW, was called Operation Taken for a Ride.
BTW, the word warranties is in quotes in the headline because these products are actually extended service contracts. This blog post explains the difference.
Not in most cases, according to Consumer Reports. A recent report by the nonprofit magazine found that only about a quarter of consumers who buy extended service contracts (the correct term) on their cars ever see their money back in savings on repairs.
As we've mentioned here, AG Nixon recently launched a massive legal action against several extended service contract companies for, among other things, sending out misleading mailings and postcards to consumers. Remember these companies are usually not associated with your car manufacturer and have no idea when your factory warranty expires.
One consumer reported getting several of these mailngs - and she has never owned a car.
Also, a new Missouri law requires the companies offering these service contracts to register with the Missouri Department of Insurance. You can check with the department to see if a company is registered at 1-800-726-7390.
The word warranties in the headline is in quotes because these are actually extended service contracts. This blog post explains the difference.
Technorati Tags: automobiles, shopping and spending, solicitation, auto extended service contracts, auto extended warranties, car extended service contracts, car extended warranties, motor vehicle extended service contracts, motor vehicle extended warranties, mvesc, moagoconsumer, consumer protection
For lots of us, the summer means ball parks and baseball. If fans strike out trying to buy tickets from the team box office, they may turn to online ticket-resale websites. There are several websites similar to e-Bay, which focus primarily on auctioning tickets to sporting events and concerts.
There are some advantages to purchasing tickets through a website like StubHub.com. Often the tickets are cheaper than the ball park price--and may be tickets to "sold-out" events.
Even though StubHub guarantees its tickets, scammers have found ways to cheat consumers by selling tickets that aren't as advertised. Consumer complaints include seats in nose-bleed sections, even though they paid for closer seats and seats that aren't in the same section, and not even receiving tickets.
To avoid getting scammed, take some precautions. First, use a reputable website and never deal directly with the seller. StubHub can only guarantee your tickets when you follow its protocol. Second, do not ever pay via wire transfer or cashier's check, as there is no way to recover that money if you don't get your tickets. Use the system of payment the site recommends. Many sites use the PayPal system and that takes the money directly from your account. This way your bank will have a history of the transaction. Finally, most sites allow you to check sellers' history of satisfied customers-make sure you read and leave reviews for future customers.
What will digital TV transition mean for you?
All broadcast TV stations will stop broadcasting the analog format on Feb. 17, 2009. Currently, stations are broadcasting in analog and digital. But after that date, only digital will be used. So, will you need a new TV? This will mainly affect people who get watch TV over the air from a rooftop or rabbit-ear antenna. Here are some scenarios:
If you have cable or satellite service, you will most likely not need to do anything. Your cable or satellite company will receive the digital signal and send it to you over the cable lines or through the satellite signal.
If you get broadcast TV only, check to see if your TV can receive a digital signal. If so, you're set. If not:
You can buy a converter box that will work with your analog TV. The federal government will give each household up to two coupons to pay for these boxes.
You can buy a new TV that receives digital signals.
See the federal government's Web site on the digital TV transition, including how to apply for the converter box coupons.
It's becoming more and more common - observe this applicant's experience. Employers are looking for signs that potential employees could be trouble, and they're asking applicants for permission to check their credit.
It's not just lenders that check your credit -- insurance companies, potential employers, phone companies, utilities and landlords often do as well. Have you checked your credit report? If not, you should. It's free. Here's how.
All of our ID theft literature warns against having your Social Security number in your purse or wallet, for fear of it falling into the hands of a thief. That means get it off your checks and driver's license and don't carry your SS card. But we invariably get the question from seniors, "My Medicare card has my Social Security number on it - don't I have to carry it with me at all times?" Understandable question, since item #1 on the back of the Medicare card seems to say that.
But the folks at Medicare say that actually means you need to carry it with you when you're travelling out of town. Otherwise, leave it at home and carry it only when going to the doctor or leaving town.
If you're in town and have an unexpected emergency room visit, you'll be treated. You can get the hospital your Medicare info later for billing.
With the cost of health insurance increasing and so many consumers going without, a product you'll see pitched these days is a health care discount plan.
For this plan, you might pay a monthly fee that supposedly gets you discounts on doctors, dentists, medicine, etc. Just remember a few things:
- Work with reputable companies, as always. Check for complaints using our KnowMo online feature.
- Check to see if your care provider or pharmacy participates. Confirm with them - don't just take the discount plan company's word for it.
- Remember this is not insurance. So if it's legitimate and if your providers participate, you will still have to pay part of your bill. Find out beforehand exactly what your discount is. No surprises.
We have blogged here many times that AG Nixon wants to see automated political calls outlawed for people on the Missouri No Call list. So far the state legislature has not made that change. These are also known as robo calls.
But there's a national group encouraging politicians to take a no robo call pledge. Not going so well so far - only four candidates nationwide have signed up.
Today, April 16th, is National Healthcare Decisions Day, when you are encouraged to a) decide what kind of medical care you would want if you can't speak for yourself, b) talk to your loved ones about it and c) put your wishes writing in the form of advance directives.
AG Nixon has a free publication, Life Choices, that can help you get that process started. It contains all the legal forms you need to complete your advance directive - including the durable power of attorney. That document allows you to name an agent (doesn't have to be a lawyer, despite the name) to make decisions for you if you're incapacitated. Our office partnered with the Missouri End-of-Life Coalition to publish Life Choices.
And if you're thinking this is an issue for seniors, think again. Everybody 18 or older needs this done. Any of us could be critically injured tomorrow and unable to speak for ourselves. Think of the three most famous people without advance directives who needed them - Nancy Cruzan, Christine Busalacchi and most recently Terri Schiavo. All three were young women at the time of their injuries. If they have put their wishes in writing before their injuries, there's a good chance those epic battles could have been avoided.
One final note: While Missouri has a living will statute, most experts in this field consider the advance directive and durable power of attorney to be much more powerful documents, legally speaking. That's why we don't even include the living will in the document packet in Life Choices.
We have blogged about online dating scams in the past, but the story of a St. Louis woman shows that these scammers can be far more patient and calculating than you might have imagined. Her story involves a nice e-mail based relationship with someone that built over a year's time. Then he asked for money.
Unlike most, this story has a happy ending, at least financially - she got her money back.
AG Nixon's latest consumer alert reminds us that home repair ripoffs become one of the top issues as spring and summer approach. This is the season when a lot of us start looking to have repairs done on our homes. And believe me, the crooks are ready for you. We have lots of tips in the above-linked news release, but the biggies are don't do business with door-to-door contractor salesmen and don't pay full price up front. Wait until the job is done to pay the full amount.
Also, make sure you get your agreement in writing. Some contractors don't offer written contracts, but you can draw up your own using our home repair worksheet. This PDF document tells you what to include in your contract.
As you can see from 2007's top 10 consumer complaints, home repair is a big one - always is.
Technorati Tags: attorney general news, door to door scam, driveway scam, home repair consumer complaints, home repair fraud, remodeling scam, scams, shopping and spending, solicitation, home repair scam, moagoconsumer, consumer protection
USA Today last week had some good fact v. fiction when it comes to things like investing, taxes, declaring bankruptcy. Especially interesting is the first item - it says that despite common belief, victims of investment scams are usually very knowledgeable about investing.
Financial exploitation of the elderly sometimes happens at the hands of those they love and trust - children, in-home caregivers, etc. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has released a video (on DVD)to help seniors understand that those they least expect to cheat them may indeed be the ones to do it. You can order this video for $10 or watch it online for free.
For example, a deadbeat son convinces his mother to routinely withdraw money from her bank account to help him out - while leaving her with little left over to pay her bills.
This video is part of the MOSAFE project, which had input from a number of different organizations and state agencies (including ours). The acronym stands for Missourians Stopping Adult Financial Exploitation.
It's the second video put out by MOSAFE. The first was a training DVD for bank and credit union employees to help them to see the signs of when their customers are being taken advantage of.
We often say that doing business with a stranger is a dangerous thing to do - but unfortunately sometimes the ones we know best do it to us as well.
The Florida Attorney General is looking into whether these pre-paid calling cards are delivering what they say they will.
Apparently his office is overhwhelmed with consumer complaints on this subject. Phone issues were the fourth-highest complaint category in our office's top 10 complaints list in 2007. One of the FL AG's biggest concerns is that this problem disproportionately affects Hispanics.
Thanks to a fairly recent change in federal law, if you have accounts that are medical in nature (such as money you owe, outstanding debt, etc), your credit report can't reveal any identifying information about the creditor.
Example: let's say you got medical treatment from Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia, and you are paying for your treatment in installments. Or perhaps you failed to pay your bill at the Mid Missouri Substance Abuse Center (just made that name up). On your credit report, you should see an entry that's designated as medical, but doesn't name those companies or give their contact information.
This is to protect your medical privacy, so that anyone checking your credit report won't learn anything about your medical condition. They will just learn that you owe money to some kind of medical organization. The amount of debt will show up, along with any history of payments good or bad.
The privacyrights.org Web site has more on the provisions of this new law.
This is a scam that can hit individuals and businesses alike. You get what looks like an invoice in the mail - maybe for a magazine subscription. Turns out you never subscribed to this magazine, so this is just a solicitation. But it looks just like a bill - it has an amount due, the magazine name, the dates of the subscription -- maybe even an account number.
So if you're busy (like a lot of small businesses) you pay the bill. The solution is to keep good records of what you've subscribed to - whether it's a magazine, domain registration, yellow-page listing, etc. These things can hit businesses especially hard, because someone in the accounting department gets it, and assumes it's a bill for a product that someone else in the company ordered.
If you fall for one of these, you can file a consumer complaint with our office.
AG Nixon is warning Missourians today - especially seniors - to be on the lookout for this scam. A central Missourian was almost tricked out of $8000 by someone claiming to be his grandson and needing money to get out of jail. The consumer went to the wire transfer station to send the money. Fortunately a station employee got suspicious and warned him that it could be a scam. He didn't send the money.
Apparently, some of these crooks get lucky, in that they have a voice that sounds like the grandchild of the people they're calling. I guess if you call enough people, you'll get lucky eventually.
As many scams do, this one involved a request for a wire transfer. That is often a red flag - scammers love wire transfers because they can be picked up almost anywhere in the world. In other words, if I convince you to wire money in my name, I can pick it up at any of the thousands of wire transfer stations across the globe.
A mid-Missouri TV station interviewed me recently because of a Craiglist posting about a baby available for adoption - for free. Sounds fishy already, right? It gets worse. The "mother" was supposedly in Africa somewhere and had her husband die recently. "She" claimed to have a baby she wanted to go to a good home. Here is the story.
This has all the markings of an adoption scam. My guess is that any consumer who expressed interest would receive photos of the baby, health updates, etc. All this would serve to get them emotionally hooked. Then the "mother" will ask for money - for a medical complication, diapers, travel to the U.S., whatever. This "mother" may very well be a he, and there is almost certainly no baby.
Our Welcome Home publication, released last summer, is a consumer guide that walks you through the complicated process of adoption. There is also a section, on page 15, on adoption scams. Basic tips are to work with an adoption professional (like a reputable agency or lawyer) and never send money directly to the birth parent(s).
Like all publications, Welcome Home is available for free at our online order form.