Frauds and Scams

Due to the recent flooding disaster in Larimer County, here is a list of NATURAL DISASTER SCAMS (retrieved from Military One Source) to be aware of:

  • Home Repair Frauds: Home repair and cleanup frauds are especially common after natural disasters.  It is important to be very careful about hiring anyone to work on your home.

  1. Be wary of anyone soliciting work.  

  2. Check references

  3. Never pay a home contractor or other vendor in cash

  4. Always ask for written estimates

  5. Get a second opinion before hiring anyone

  6. Don't pay the full amount before work has begun

  7. Don't feel pressured to hire someone because of "incentives" offered at the door.

  • Fake Charities: Con artists and criminals may pretend to solicit money to help the vicitms of a natural disaster.  The made-up name of their group will often be nearly identical to a well-known, reputable charity.

  1. Check out any charitable group you are unfamiliar with.  There are non-profit watchdog groups that evaluate charitable organizations on their performance in a number of areas. Two respected organizations to contact are Charity Navigator and Wise Giving Alliance.

  2. Be wary of out-of-state organizations, especially if their address is a post office box.

  3. Never make cash donations and always make checks payable to the organization and not the individual soliciting the donation.

  4. Be careful when responding to charitable solicitations that come through the mail

  5. Be altert to potential email scams

  • Fake FEMA Representatives: Some con artists are also pretending to  be a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) represntatives collecting a "processing fee" for an emergency loan or other assistance.  If you get a phone call or visit from someone claiming to be a representative of a particular agency, always call the agency to confirm that the representative is legitimate and DO NOT use the phone number the solicitor gave you.  The correct contact number for FEMA is 1-800-621-3362 or their website is www.disasterassistance.gov

  • Identity Theft: Many people lose imporant papers and documents after a natural disaster.  These items, which often contain personal information such as Social Security numbers, credit card and bank account numbers, can be used by identity theives to make purchases and open new accounts in your name.

  1. Contact your creditors immediately to report lost credit cards.  Contact your bank if you have lost checks or a bank card.

  2. Use a paper shredder to dispose of any papers or documents with personal information when you are cleaning up after a disaster so identity theives can't get  your personal information.

  3. Get a copy of your credit report a few weeks after a disaster to be sure no one has illegally used your personal information.  You are eligible for a free credit report once a year from www.annualcreditreport.com

The following is a short list of other current Scams and Frauds known to be occuring in Northern Colorado and across the U.S.

  • The Grandparents Scheme: This particular scheme is aimed at seniors.  The unsuspecting victim will answer his/her phone and a voice says, "Hey, Grandpa/Grandma, it's your favorite grandchild, and I'm in trouble." The Senior responds, "Sara, is that you?" Another person will then respond, "Yes, it's Sara -- she's calling from a friend's cell phone and she's been in an accident (or she is in jail)." She's out of state and needs you to wire some money right away.

            If this happens to you:  Check with family members to see if your grandchild is truly traveling. Never volunteer names of "grandkids" to people who don't immediately identify themselves. Chances are good that the caller will hang up if you challenge them.

  • Lottery Scams: This Scam has several different versions currently running. The first is when a person receives an email or telephone call telling them they have been entered into a lottery drawing.  Later, they receive a call or email congratulating them on winning a substantial prize in another country's national lottery.  They are told before they can claim their prize (usually several millions of dollars), that they must send money to pay for administration fees and taxes (a few thousand dollars) so the money can be sent into the U.S.  The lottery money in this case doesn't exist.  Genuine lottery games will not ask for money to pay administrative fees and will not notify winners via email.   

    ** A second version of this is when you receive a check in the mail - either from a lottery you have won (when you never bought a ticket) or from another third party who works for a lottery agency. The check looks real, but when you try to cash it you find out the check is fake and then you unknowingly end up trying to pass a counterfit check. 

  • The Pigeon DropFort Collins Police Department (FCPD) is spreading the word about this scam. This is the one where a stranger hangs out in a store, looks for a person and approaches them for help in a "situation." The theme is that the stranger (suspect) has somehow "won" monies (like the Lottery) that they can't get cash for (some reason), and they will be more than happy to share the winnings with the victim if they help them get cash. The suspect is friendly, and the victim's new B.F.F.

    Long story short, the victim goes to the bank and obtains cash. Once the money is out of the bank, the scam goes really fast. The suspect drops the victim off to do an errand, giving them an envelope that contains “the cash”. The suspect leaves, and the victim finds that there is cut up newspaper and such in the envelope.

    Even though the suspect spends a lot of time with the victim, there rarely is any information on suspect(s), vehicles, etc. And yes, there are usually other people working in tandem with the suspect who might just show up while the suspect is "setting the hook."

    The Pigeon Drop recently occurred in Aurora, CO. The suspects may move up and down the Front Range looking for easy targets.  Be aware of this type of scam and if you see anything like this occurring, please call local law enforcement.

  • Advance Fee Frauds: This fraud takes the form of an offer, either by regular mail, fax or email in which you are given the chance to share a huge sum of money in return for using the  recipient's bank account to transfer the money out of the country.  The perpetrators will often then use the bank account details to empty a victim's bank account.  In some instances, they also convince the victim that money is needed up front to pay for fees or is needed to bribe officials. 

    Another version of this is receiving a request from a person or company unknown to you in which you receive a check for several thousand dollars ($5,000 or so) and you are asked to deposit the check and then wire only a small amount of the check (maybe $500) onto the perpetrator... and for your time you get to keep the majority of the check ($4,500).  Of course, the check and the funds to go with it are fake and the money you wire to them is from your actual bank account, so you lose the amount you are asked to wire.

  • The Home Improvement Scheme:  This Scheme is usually run by groups of individuals who drive by your home and knock on your door.  They offer some kind of home improvement or home repair you didn't ask for.  They will tell you they just finished up a big job in the neighborhood and have extra materials leftover (i.e. concrete for a driveway, roofing materials, lumber for a deck...).  They tell you they can offer you a great deal to work on your house since they have this extra material.  They ask for some money up front to pay for the labor of workers and then either do no work on your home or they do only part of the job and then come back asking for thousands of dollars more to complete the job, knowing that you cannot live with only half a roof, half a deck or half a driveway etc.

If you have fallen victim to a scammer remember these five 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 IdentityTheft Prevention page here 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.  

    Equifax

    1-888-766-0008

    Experian

    1-800-525-6285

    Transunion

    1-800-680-7289

  4.  File a Police Report. Call your local law enforcement agency to report the fraud/scam.  Ask to 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.