Summer's not the time to relax, at least when the next phone call, email or letter could be part of a criminal conspiracy to steal your money, your identity or threaten to send your children to foster care.
Do not resume normal leisure activities until knowing which scams, old or new, might hit next.
The scam: Financial aid, whether a scholarship, grant, award or seminar, that often requires a bank account or credit-card information from the "winner." Some scammers promise student-loan relief, but ask for a fee. (That's illegal.)
Beware: Scammers like to use authoritative business names that include words like "federal" or "national," says the Connecticut Better Business Bureau.
Comment: If you're asked for an application fee, it's probably a scam. Never write a check to, or share personal or banking information with, an unfamiliar business. The BBB also says to watch for services that guarantee money — legitimate scholarship services do not determine which recipients the scholarship foundation chooses. Walk away if: You've never applied for a scholarship, yet a caller or letter says you're a finalist or winner. Avoid lenders with extremely low interest rates on education loans who ask for an upfront fee. Any seminar on scholarships or financial aid is probably more concerned with selling you something than providing financial aid.
The scam: Offers of loan modifications, often claiming an association with the federal government, with an upfront fee.
Beware: After receiving the fee, the scammers stop answering customers' calls and emails.
Comment: The Federal Trade Commission, in late July, announced several lawsuits as part of its Operation Mortgage Mis-Modification that charged companies with taking money from homeowners. Never pay an upfront fee or send a mortgage payment to any company other than your lender, says the FTC. Also: Scammers use official-sounding names like "Federal Assistance Program" and often guarantee a loan modification. Legitimate companies, by law, must tell consumers a lender might not agree to alter their loan.
The scam: An email to customers about an unpaid toll, with a warning that the previous invoices have been ignored. Customers are asked to pay immediately by downloading the attached "invoice."
Beware: Downloading the attachment actually releases a virus that scans your computer for personal and banking information.
Comment: Check any associated web addresses — the domain name is often a giveaway. In this case, it might include E-ZPass as a subdomain, says the BBB, as in ezpass.[insert name of scam website here].com or as part of a longer address like ezpasspayyourtolls.com. Hovering your mouse over a Web address in the email can reveal the actual scam address. Never click on the link. Hovering over it only reveals the actual destination.
The scam: Prospective "buyers" who send a check for more than the asking price, then send an email asking for a check covering the difference.
Beware: The original check is fake. The scammers now have the your money and personal information.
Comment: The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs, in a recent alert, says victims should call local police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (1-877-876-2455). Another Craigslist scam offers bargain-rate property rentals, often using professional real estate listings. People who respond are asked for an immediate deposit. The scammers, of course, don't own the property. They cash the checks and disappear.
The scam: Callers identifying themselves as IRS representatives demanding payment of taxes. Threats for nonpayment include loss of home, possessions or a drop in your credit score.
Beware: Any call about taxes owed to the IRS is a scam — the IRS only sends written notices through the U.S. mail.
Comment: The state attorney general's office and state Department of Consumer Protection have twice warned about this scam. A Newington woman, in May, told TBL about an IRS impersonator who demanded $1,000 after accusing her of ignoring two letters from the IRS last year. Threats included arrest and sending her children to foster care.Copyright © 2015, CT Now