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Telephone scam hits close to home

Sept. 17, 2010 at 4:17 a.m.
Updated Sept. 18, 2010 at 4:18 a.m.


By Alan Bligh

I received a call last week from a very astute Victoria consumer by the name of John Goldman. He had received a phone call from an individual claiming to be with the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.

The caller stated that Goldman had won a second prize of $350,000 in some sort of lottery contest. The schemer said the FTC was involved because if Goldman didn't claim his money, the prize would be revoked and referred to the IRS.

Goldman was then directed to call Liberty Mutual Group Insurance in Boston to arrange to receive his prize.

When Goldman called, he found that they wanted a one percent fee, $3,500, before sending him his prize.

If the intended victim could not raise the $3,500 they would make a special offer if the consumer would pay a lesser amount through a bank in Costa Rica.

Well, John knew from the outset that this was a scam. Why in the world would the FTC be involved with contest prizes in the first place? So John played along with the schemers to get as much information as possible out of them. We have seen similar scams in which the callers impersonated agents with the FBI, Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Customs Service.

Do people really fall for these scams? Yep, by the carloads.

MAP SPAMMING SCAM

As we all know chambers of commerce like to promote shopping at home. I know that Randy Vivian at the Victoria Chamber would heartily agree. From my experience with BBB, I would have to say it certainly is safer to do so.

Also, tax revenues help fund local activities and businesses have more money to help the community. Schemers know that people tend to shop locally so there is a new advertising twist you need to be familiar with.

Map spamming is the evolved new version of directory spamming, which involves the falsification of information within web-based map directories. The term describes the practice of dishonest advertisers using popular web-based map directories, such as Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps, to create the false impression of a business' local presence.

There are three general methods that spammers use to create the false impression that they are a local business:

The spammer uses another business' address and hopes that business won't notice.

The spammer makes up an address.

The spammer uses a series of P.O. boxes which forward to the spammer's actual address.

Anyway you look at it - it's deceptive.

MORTGAGE COMPANY GETS 'F'

American Home Mortgage Servicing, Inc. has been assigned an F rating due to the high volume of consumer disputes filed and recent government action.

The Coppell, Texas-based company provides mortgage loan services to homeowners and loan investors. In the last 36 months, 651 complaints have been received by BBB against the business.

Consumers complain that the company erroneously processes their payments and delays updating their system to reflect accurate account balances.

The Texas Attorney General's office has now filed a suit against the company. The state is seeking a permanent injunction, all money or property taken from identifiable Texas consumers and pre-judgment interest on all awards of restitution. The matter is pending.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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