PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Scam artists are at it again. They’ve found new ways to trick you into giving up your hard-earned money, and for some of the victims, the results can be devastating.
The following list started with the help of viewers. They told KDKA about emails, letters or phone calls they got.
First on the list is a phone call that would rattle anyone, a man claiming to be from the Drug Enforcement Administration, saying you’re about to be arrested:
“If you think that you are going to run away from the authorities, guess what? You must be going nuts because I will have my officers there show up at your door within the next 24 to 48 hours.”
Callers say you can avoid the arrest by paying a fine. A woman in Belle Vernon got one of the calls.
KDKA’s David Highfield took this scam to the real DEA.
“A DEA agent would never call and ask somebody to wire money to them – that never happens,” said the DEA’s Gary Davis.
Davis says many times victims are people who have ordered drugs – or just herbal supplements from an online pharmacy without a prescription – and soon after, they get a call claiming the overseas pharmacy is under investigation and they are too.
“There was one woman who sent $85,000 over a period of time, and there was another woman who sent money and she was devastated – she actually committed suicide,” said Davis.
Those horrible outcomes did not happen in our area.
As for number two on the list, Cassie Brenner saw people on television using electronic cigarettes; she thought it might help her daughter quit smoking, so she went online to a company called Direct E Cig.
“They said you could get a free starter kit – all you would have to pay for is the shipping and handling,” said Brenner.
She paid the $4.95 in shipping, but then got a surprise.
“Around 30 days after I got the starter kit – they billed me for the starter kit – and it was a hundred dollars,” she said.
So is it a scam? Brenner feels like she got taken, but this is more of a case of always-read-the-fine-print.
The Better Business Bureau has given Direct E Cig an “F” rating.
Brenner says the company told her the fine print stated that if she didn’t return the kit in a certain number of days she’d be charged.
“Be extremely cautious with free trial offers – you really have to look at the fine print,” said Becky Maier, of the Better Business Bureau.
The company never responded to KDKA’s attempts to reach them.
Number three, a woman in Knoxville was suspicious when she got a letter from UBI Payment Services.
It promised $5,000 if she returned the “release form” and fulfilled the contest rules. It appears it came from Hong Kong and the return envelope is addressed to Australia. So is this is a scam?
Postal Inspector Andrew Richards says it definitely is. They send a check, and then the consumer is asked to send them money immediately to pay fees; but once the money is gone, the consumer realizes the check they sent was phony.
Number four on our list is an email KDKA’s Dave Crawley received.
It appears it to be from Discover Card, telling Dave he needs to reconfirm his account information within three days or his account will be suspended. There’s even a link supposedly to Discover Card’s website.
However, officials with Discover say they would never send out an email asking for your account information. In fact, if you hold your mouse over the link, without actually clicking it – you’ll see where the link would really take you, and it’s not to Discover’s site.
Dave didn’t fall for this. The big red flag for him was two misspellings.
“It was actually quite believable down to the last sentence when they misspelled two words,” said Crawley.
You don’t have to be a good speller to be a scam artist.