Don't get scammed this spring!

Greg Pollard, Ward 11 Safety Liaison, has been receiving complaints about scams recently. Below are a few that we wanted to bring to your attention:

The Long Lost Relative Scam:

This scam begins with the victim receiving a letter, email, or a phone call from someone with a very confidential business proposal. The letter states that an individual, worth millions of dollars, has died without leaving a will.

The individual contacting you is trying to keep the money from reverting back to what they tell you is a corrupt government and requests assistance from the consumer. The victim is asked to provide an account number where the money can be transferred, and in exchange for this "service," the victim will make a profit. (In some cases, the victim is asked to send money in exchange for a much larger sum).

It does happen, but not very often. So if you receive a notification in a email or regular mail from an "estate locator" saying that there is an unclaimed inheritance waiting for you, be very wary. You could be the target of a slick con artist.

Handyman Scams:

There are many different types of handyman scams, but they all have a few things in common:

  • The handyman calls you or knocks on your door, identifying a problem with your home. (Instead of YOU calling them, as is the norm.)
  • The handyman often will ask to come inside so they can get a better idea of the “scope of the problem.”
  • The handyman will want to have payment upfront and commence work WITHOUT a contract.

The most dangerous scammers prey on elderly people by posing as a handyman and then burglarizing their homes. There is also the handyman scam of leaving without finishing the job (but lots of money paid upfront!)

Here are some steps you can take to keep from getting scammed:

  1. Be extremely wary of contractors/handymen that come to your door or call you. This should be considered a red flag.
  2. Don't let the contractor finance your project. This almost always results in unnecessary charges. If you need financing, contact a bank or credit union.
  3. Don’t be pushed into making quick decisions, get at least two other bids.
  4. Demand a signed, written contract, outlining the work to be performed, the time frame and the agreed-upon cost of supplies and labor BEFORE giving the contractor any money upfront.
  5. Never allow an uninvited handyman inside your home so they can give you a supposed estimate. This is often the set-up to a scam or burglary. Ask them to leave immediately. Call the police if they don't.
  6. Always get 2 or more estimates for work before selecting a contractor.

Utility Worker & Police Officer “Poser” scams:

These scams involve perpetrators posing as utility workers or Police Officers. They will knock on your door, flash an “ID”, and ask to come in. Their plan is to burglarize your home.

If a utility worker knocks on your door and you did not call in a complaint/repair, call the utility company before letting him/her in your home.

If a Police Officer knocks on your door, you can call 216-621-1234 to make sure he/she is legitimate. Scamming “Police posers” are almost always in plain clothes and there will not be a squad car visible. Real police will be dispatched to your home right away if it was a scammer that knocked on your door. 

Note that “real” utility workers and Police Officers will not try to bully you to let them in your home while you are verifying their legitimacy.

For more information about these scams and/or any neighborhood safety concern, call Greg Pollard at 216-383-9772.

Sources:  Ohio Consumer Council, AARP, and Ohio Attorney General’s Office

Greg Pollard is the Development Manager at Collinwood & Nottingham Villages Development Corporation.

Jayme Lucas

Development Manager at Collinwood & Nottingham Villages Development Corporation

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Volume 3, Issue 2, Posted 11:10 AM, 04.04.2011