Common Scams in the United States

Fake Electricity Company Scam

A person dressed like ComEd with fake ID, clipboard, uniform, and all will come to your door and say they’re required to check something in your house. They steal everything they can get their hands on and just walk out. Most times it’s just one guy but the really bold ones work as a duo. One has the clip board going through this fake questionnaire with you while the other is “busy checking stuff” in your house.

Independent Electricity Company Scam

Aggressive electricity salespeople will try to get you to switch from the main regulated utility to an “independent provider”. They may tout their low rates, offer incentives like gift cards or flat screen TVs, anything they can do to get you to sign up.
There are various scams here but essentially they’re trying to get you to overpay for electricity. Sometimes the price goes up dramatically after the first year. Sometimes there are significant penalties to leave. Sometimes the price is just the supply component and doesn’t include delivery. Sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above.
If they’re coming to you to sell you aggressively, they are earning enough commission that you’re probably not getting a good deal. So be warned.
Some aggressive salespeople will even ask to see your bill, take a picture of it or mark down your account number, and then lie that you gave them permission to switch you over to their service.

Fake Police/Court Authorities

I’ve received calls and voicemails with messages along the lines of:

Have received this phone call is to inform you that there is a legal enforcement action filed on your social security number for criminal activities under Section 8. Tuna sub section 1028. So before this matter goes to the federal courthouse or before you get arrested, please call immediately on our department number 814-619-4156. I repeat. It’s 814-619-4156. Thank you.

Hey old information with your social security number the moment you receive this message. You need to get back to us to avoid legal consequences to connect call immediately, press one.

Not all of them use automated dialers but the ones that do should be a dead give-away. The real police, if they’re seeking a criminal, won’t use an automated dialer without your name and asking you to press 1. They automate it because it’s free to make millions of calls by computer, and all they need is one dumb person to bite for them to make money. Don’t let that person be you.

Fake IRS Tax Audits

Similar to the above fake police/court scam, the fake IRS scam has scammers pretending to be from the IRS. They’ll claim you owe them a lot of money, say $X, and to avoid penalties and jail, they’re giving you a one time offer to wipe the record clean if you pay $Y (some smaller amount). One common scam asks for the money in electronic gift cards or Western Union. Variations of this scam exists, but essentially they’re pretending to be the IRS tax authorities and want information and/or money. Don’t give these scammers either.

Fitness Challenge Scams

Fitness challenge scams and weight loss scams are relatively new. We have a whole article dedicated to fitness challenge scams. These scams usually advertise on social media and offer some kind of “free” training for “motivated people only”. The scam is they require some kind of deposit that you only get back if you hit your goals using their program… but they set it up so many people don’t, so it’s free money for them. And it’s not cheap either, some scammers like Krav Maga Academy in NYC charge $600 for their scam.

Taxi Scam

Taxi scams usually occur near airports. Unlicensed taxi operators will approach you asking if you’re looking for a taxi and then ask you to follow them. Their rates are not regulated and typically much higher than the legal taxis. Or they may take detours and tack on surcharges. Either way, avoid these like the plague. Avoid scammers by taking an Uber/Lyft (you can dispute the charge if they try to take you on detours), or ideally by taking public transit.

Tourist Scams

Every city with a large amount of tourists have their scams targeting tourists. Rome is famous for theirs. NYC has it’s own style of tourist scams. The key to remember is, if someone approaches you you should be on your guard. Especially around tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty (there are fake ferries) or the Empire State Building (they sell you tickets to a different attraction in same building).

Acrobatic Performance Scam

This scam seems harmless at first, but after seeing it 5 times I saw how they take advantage of tourists. The first time I saw this, I thought “Oh wow it’s a fairly entertaining performance and they’re just asking for donations”. Then I broke down how the scam worked and I was very surprised.

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