Phone calls demanding immediate payment of an overdue bill probably are not from your local utility company. And that’s not a relative making that urgent phone call at 2 a.m. pleading for bail money.
It is someone trying to scam you out of your hard-earned money, Kansas City police say.
Those are two of the 12 most common scams in the Kansas City area.
Police say beware.
“Everyone tends to fall for these if the salesmanship is good enough,” said Sgt. Robert Rickett with the Kansas City Police Department’s economic crimes unit.
One of the biggest scams that recently surfaced in Kansas City involves someone selling an item on the Internet and a buyer intentionally paying with a check larger than what the seller asked for. The buyer then instructs the seller to deposit the check but send a new check for the difference.
It turns out that the first check is no good and the seller loses the refunded money as well as the item sold, Rickett said during a presentation to media Thursday.
The department’s economic crimes unit handles about 2,500 reports each year, but this is the first time it has compiled a list of top scams.
Victims range from teenagers to the elderly, Rickett said.
“Victims are ashamed, they are scared and they are fearful of coming forward because they have been scammed by an anonymous person,” Rickett said. “They don’t know if that anonymous person is around the block, across town or halfway around the world.”
Police released the list to help people avoid becoming scam victims. Always be vigilant, ask questions and take time to reflect on the offer, Rickett said. If in doubt, discuss the offer with someone else, he said. Or research the offer by typing it into Google to see if others have reported it as a fraud.
If you are scammed, notify police immediately, Rickett said.
Police provided a summary of top scams, listed alphabetically, with at least one example of what can happen in each type of scam:
▪ Banking: The scammer persuades a victim to wire money to receive a loan. Or the scammer tricks a victim into sending money to allegedly clean up the victim’s credit. Or the scammer tricks a victim into paying for a gift card that has no balance.
▪ Grandparent call: The caller claims to be a grandchild in need of money to solve some medical or legal issue.
▪ Immigration: The caller coerces the victim into wiring money to prevent the victim from being deported over an immigration issue.
▪ Job opportunity: A scammer persuades a victim to purchase a computer supposedly needed for a job. Or a scammer tricks a victim into sending money for a computer needed for a job, but the victim never gets the computer. Or a scammer gets a victim to send money for a work-from-home packet that never arrives.
▪ Legal: The scammer orders a victim to put money on a preloaded card to avoid being arrested for a legal issue, such as unpaid court fees.
▪ Online computer repair: The scammer sends an email telling the victim he or she has a computer virus, takes control remotely of the computer and demands a credit card number for payment.
▪ Online purchases: The victim wires money for a vehicle or another purchase but never gets the item.
▪ Overpayment: A person sells something, such as a book, on the Internet. The scammer overpays with a check (which is no good), then asks for a refund by courier. Or a scammer pays a victim to drive around with advertising on a vehicle and sends a payment check (which is no good) that is too much and asks for the overpayment amount to be sent back in a new check.
▪ Real estate: The scammer sells or rents out a residence that the scammer does have not the legal right to rent out.
▪ Sweepstakes and lottery: The victim learns he or she has won a contest but has to wire a “winning fee” to get the money, which he or she never receives.
▪ Taxes: The scammer calls the victim and demands payment for unpaid taxes.
▪ Utilities: The scammer calls and tells the victim to purchase a prepaid card to give to the scammer to keep utilities from being turned off because of overdue payments. Or a scammer claims to be from the utility company and asks for money to help the victim get a utility turned back on.