Paying for a Threat

Imagine this: it’s the hottest day of the year. (Or, since we’re getting into Fall, the coldest.) Someone from your utility company calls to say they’re about to cut off your power. You check the caller ID, and it looks like the right number – at least, it’s in your area code. You know you’ve paid your bill, and you can’t imagine what happened – but you also know you can’t afford to lose power. So what do you do?

The caller tells you: I can stop this, but only if you pay me. And, naturally, he tells you how.

Up to this point, it’s the kind of scam we often see at the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers tell us every day about being tricked into wiring money or giving their credit card  or bank account number to a very persuasive person – who turns out to be a first-rate scam artist. There are all sorts of scams: someone you know is in trouble and needs your help; you won a big, big prize, but you have to pay a fee before you can collect it; you can get a government grant, but you need to pay some fees – and so many other variations.

But this particular scam has its own variation on the scheme. Instead of wiring money, these scammers are telling people to use GreenDot, buy a prepaid gift card, or use PayPal to pay them. Scammers using reloadable debit cards, gift cards, or PayPal is not exactly new – but it’s definitely growing. It lets them get your money in a way that doesn’t let you ever get it back. *Poof* – it’s gone. And that call that looked like the right number? Scammers can use computers to make it look like they’re calling from one place – when, really, they’re someplace else.

So, if you ever get a call (or email, or text, or – perish the thought – visit) saying you need to pay someone via PayPal, or buy a GreenDot card or a gift card: Stop. Chances are, that’s a scam. Call your utility company – for example – on a number you know to be correct. (Check your bill – it will list one.) Tell them what happened and see what they say. And then report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-FTC-HELP, so we can try to shut them down.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

Its a good eye opener for me not to pay to somebody whom I do not know.Thank you for the advance notice.

I'm haven't fallen for any of these scams, but I have received a number of calls at work and on my cell leaving messages asking for me to call back and they have a similar script each time. Unfortunately, several really poor people looking for loans to keep them afloat have been scammed and paid hundreds of dollars. The FTC needs to shut down the numbers they are calling through and trace those calls back to their home countries (usually India or Indonesia given the thick accent and the fact that for the first time ever I got a call from a +062 international number).

It's not wise to apply for online payday loans. I got one last year and a scammer must have got my private information because a payday loan website has been harrassing me for $625. They have been calling me and finally sent me an E mail promising to turn my account over to a collection agency if I don't pay $625 in payments. I don't even know who they are! I only deal with a reputable online loaner, but all that personal info I entered online is easy for scammers to get. My loans are paid and I'll never get one online again.

i have gotten threating calls my realatives have gotten calls saying horrible nasty things about me also they have called all my family number comes up unknown or 855-573-1644 saying there Mark Mcdaniels from Deleware ass. also makeing threats my mothers very ill shes 83 years old they have called my job iam sick about this, a Bounty huter is on this! i want them to leave me alone! prayer for sick people!

A few months ago I answered an ad on Craigslist and provided my e-mail and cell phone number. The ad was a scam. Since then I have received out of country cell phone solicitations and scam/spam e-mail, (my email account has been free of this activity for over ten years. The scams seem to be heating up, posing as the Atlanta Branch of the FBI and Wells Fargo Bank - all promising millions of dollars if I send money. Time for a new email address and forget trying to buy something on line from a private party. (Scam was reported to Craigslist.)

Was threated my a lady over at JM Kingdom that she know where I live and would here a blow my M F head off and watch my M F body bleed out.
This all over a sweepstake winning . That I refuse The place is JM Kingdom Phone number are all differ 876-291-1814,876-449-2189 so many of them this has been going off since Nov. Now they are using a magic jack number from very close by our home Please I have not sense any money ,I tell them I don't want there money and they get upset with me.Please help. Please don't answer any calls from these people

Quote from the blog: "And then report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-FTC-HELP, so we can try to shut them down."

Leave a Comment

Commenting Policy

Read Our Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.