New scams target unsuspecting citizens in a variety of ways

One door-to-door scam and several new telephone and Internet scams have cropped up this week, with residents reporting incidents to the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Department and the Lovell Police Department, as well as statewide reporting to the Wyoming Attorney General’s consumer protection unit.

One scam targeting the elderly asks the victim if he or she is receiving Medicare and if he or she has knee or back pain. In another scam, the caller told the individual answering the phone that his social security number had expired and that he needed to call another telephone number in order to be reinstated. Both calls were seeking information about the victim’s identity that could be used as part of an identity theft scheme.

Another scam call informed the individual answering the phone that his utilities would be shut off if immediate payment was not made. This type of call, along with calls from individuals purporting to be with the IRS or a credit agency attempt to get bank account or credit card information for use in future fraudulent activities.

According to local law enforcement sources, dating site scams are also on the rise. In many cases, someone met on a site concocts a story to extort money from someone they met on the site.

The Wyoming Office of the Attorney General’s consumer protection unit issued a warning this week to consumers about asphalt paving scams that are sweeping the state. Attorney Peter Michael warned that the out-of-state driveway repair companies are sending individuals door-to-door trying to lure consumers into paying exorbitant sums of money for what turns out to be substandard work.

According to the consumer protection agency, paving crews arrive unannounced and offer services at a supposed discount, telling the unsuspecting homeowners they have material leftover from another job. The crews often give vague verbal estimates and fail to inform the homeowner of the actual costs, which in most cases turn out to be much higher than expected. They also promise attractive warranties on the work, which are not redeemable.

Many consumers have reported to the attorney general that the addresses given by the paving company turn out to be the addresses of UPS stores, motels or RV parks.

“Of course, not all paving contractors are out to scam consumers,” stated the agency’s news release. “Recognizing the warning signs will help consumers distinguish legitimate contractors from ill-intentioned ones.”

According to information released this week by the consumer protection unit, some of the red flags consumers should watch for are “today only” offers, high-pressure sales tactics and failure to provide written estimates. The unit advises consumers to get multiple written estimates and to seek referrals from persons who are known. Verify that the contractor is in compliance with local licensing laws and is bonded. Also, verify that the contractor has a permanent location and get all estimates in writing and receipts for work that is complete. Avoid making advance payments whenever possible.

Though local law enforcement authorities have not yet received reports of this type of scam in the area, they caution that it is a common scam and that residents should exercise caution regarding any offer that sounds too good to be true.

As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Report any and all scams to local law enforcement and do not give out personal information to any caller who is not known.

By Patti Carpenter