PITTSBURGH - Often it's a new twist on an old scheme, and the thieves can be very convincing, so I teamed up with the Better Business Bureau to highlight the Top 5 new schemes in Pittsburgh.
We’re getting a lot of complaints about these schemes and want you to know about them, so you won’t become the con artists’ next victim.
Payday Loan Scam
Brian Russell filled out an online application for a payday loan. The next day, he got a disturbing phone call.
The caller said he was with the California attorney general's office. He accused Brian of committing a crime and then threatened to have him arrested if he didn't pay them $600.
"I had to go to a Walgreens and pick up a Green Dot card and transfer them the money that way, and that's when I knew immediately that this was a scam," said Russell.
He hung up, but they kept calling him, even at work.
"They did almost get me fired. My boss ended up telling them, ‘We fired him. He no longer works here,’ just to get them to stop calling,” said Russell.
It's called the Payday Loan Scam and it is No. 1 on our list. The con artists threaten jail time if you don't pay a non-existent debt.
Get Paid for Driving Around
There are marketing companies that will pay people for this type of advertising, but this is a hoax.
The ad claims all you have to do is put the company's logo on your car and then get paid for driving around.
They send you a check and then have you wire money to a graphic designer to customize the advertisement.
"Long story short, the check is a counterfeit check. The check bounces and the money you paid that graphic designer, you're out of that money," said Warren King, the president of the Western Pennsylvania Better Business Bureau.
Fake Social Media Messages
Here are a couple examples of fake social media messages.
“FYI this profile on Twitter is spreading nasty blogs around about you.”
“Did you see this pic of you? Lol”
They often look like they’re coming from a friend on Twitter or Facebook, but if you click on the link you’ll download malware that’s designed to steal your identity.
Mindi Pfoutz found a house for rent on Craigslist, but here's the first red flag.
"They told us they were doing God's work in Nigeria. They were missionaries down there," said Pfoutz, of Scottsdale, Pa.
All they need was a deposit and then they promised to mail the keys.
"They gave us how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, like details of the interior and the exterior, and then when we drove by to see it. It was just a vacant lot. There was not even a house there," said Pfoutz.
Newtown Charity Scams
"We call this, sadly enough, the scam of the year," said King.
Within hours of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn. thieves were setting up phony charities to cash-in on your sympathy.
"These con artists are taking advantage of people's emotions," said King.
Trust Your Instincts
If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. If someone's got excuse after excuse for why they can't meet with you, don't trust them.
Often, these criminals are overseas, making it very difficult for police to prosecute them.