CLEVELAND — Scammers are everywhere targeting Northeast Ohio. That’s one of the big reasons why every year there’s a special focus by News 5 Investigators and consumer agencies to help you. It’s a culmination of efforts during Consumer Protection Week.
From fake websites to police imposters, it’s been a swarming season for scammers. The Federal Trade Commission reported record high romance scams happening in 2021. Local women were being asked to pay for all kinds of things.
“His car wasn’t doing well. It needed a new fan belt,” said one Clevelander who said she was roped into a suspicious relationship.
'TAKE A BREATH' ADVICE
“Everyone just needs to take a breath and do some research,” said Ericka Dilworth from the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland. She said consumers need to check on everything these days and be careful of someone who says you have to act right away. “(Criminals) try to put that pressure on…’Limited Time Offer,’ or they try to pull at your heartstrings with a puppy scam or a charity scam,” said Dilworth.
This past year, we even saw scammers target a Cleveland woman who was just looking for her lost dog. One of her credit accounts was eventually hacked.
“(We) need to think about that carefully, what you’re putting out and who’s getting access to that information,” she told us.
She was contacted by text, and just this week a new round of text messages were sent to Northeast Ohioans, claiming bank accounts were suspended.
“They continue to change and to tweak how they approach the scam,” said Dilworth.
CONSUMER PROTECTION RESOURCES
You can get help with your consumer concerns through the Federal Trade Commission complaint center, the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad, or the BBB’s ScamTracker site, like Kenneth Ross from Parma recently did. He tried to buy an air fryer oven but ended up on a fake website and had charges for more than $6,000.
“I didn’t buy anything from Australia. I wasn’t planning on buying anything from Australia,” said Ross.
“You should really only do business with sites that you’re familiar with,” suggested Dilworth. “Even if it’s the best deal ever out there, be careful of who you’re giving your credit card information to.”
UKRAINE RELIEF SCAMS HITTING NOW
Concerns are hitting around the world as Russia has bombed numerous areas in Ukraine with no immediate end in sight. It’s these kinds of events that have scammers ready to pounce, in this case with fake Ukraine charities and supposed collections for the million-plus refugees.
“Where the scammer knows that’s where your focus is and that’s where you want to give your money or spend your money,” warned Dilworth. “So, that’s where they’re going to put the scams.”
Meanwhile, cryptocurrency scams are way up these days with the median dollar loss of $1,200. Crooks are always finding new things to exploit.
“If we give tips on these (areas) are the concerns, then (scammers) know that they can’t do it that way. And so they find another way around it,” said Dilworth. “So, they are constantly morphing into a better way to scam you.”
So, whether it’s a phony website, callers claiming they’re from a government agency, or texts and emails trying to get you to click on them, the key is to take a moment to think before you make a decision. Reach out for answers before handing over your money or your personal information.
“You cannot assume who you’re talking to is who they say they are,” said Dilworth.