Sunday, December 02, 2012

How not to be a victim of a scam or crime

Fraudsters, scammers and thieves seem to be out in full force this time of year.   Here are a few I came across this week along with  preventative tips:

Nicole of The Budgeting Babe was pickpursed (similar to being pickpocketed only her wallet was removed from her purse instead of her pocket) See My Wallet Was Stolen Last Night:
As Nicole dined at a Chicago restaurant two men came in and without waiting to be seated sat at the table directly behind her.  At one point the man behind her got uncomfortably close. Then five minutes later they both got up and left the restaurant without ordering anything. It wasn't until an hour later when Nicole searching for her wallet to pay her bill noticed it was missing.   In the meantime, the thieves had used her credit cards to charge items at a nearby Target.

This story comes a few weeks after this article appeared in our local paper. Elderly women were the target of purse thieves while shopping.  Two men distract a woman by asking her questions, while another man takes the wallet from her purse. 
The article recommends shoppers protect themselves by paying attention to where they keep their valuables.

Don’t walk away from carts with your purse in it and don’t leave valuables on the seats of your car in parking lots. You are a target.

If Nicole could turn back the clock I am sure she wouldn’t hang her purse on the back of her chair hidden behind her coat - she has been doing this for years and feeling falsely protected.  Nicole’s thieves seem to have been only interested in her credit cards and cash, but she can’t be completely certain they will not sell or use her personal information.  In her post Wallet Status, she provides preventative tips that would have helped minimize her loss:
- Clean her wallet after running errands.
- Keep only the credit cards she needs on a daily basis in her wallet. I would also remove checkbooks, medical cards and other IDs such as social security cards.

- Keep her wallet in a zipped compartment.
- Don’t take her full wallet with her when she goes out.  Just take the basics.

Stephanie of Graduated Learning was falsely accused of denting a car:
This is a weird one.  Earlier this week Stephanie tweeted, “Someone at work left a note on my windshield telling me I caused $1k in damage to their car citing dents I’ve had on my car for several years.” 
Initially, I thought this was a random scammer looking to harass and intimidate Stephanie until she gave him money or personal information to make him go away.  This is what professional con artists do – they search for an easy target (a female driving a car with dents) then harass them until they get what they want.  In this case Stephanie’s note guy ended up working at her company, though she didn’t know him personally.  After receiving a second note and leaving him a voicemail letting him know it wasn’t her, he texted her saying he would follow up the next day to better understand the fresh looking damage on her passenger fender and bumper that matched the damage on his car.

Tweeters concerned about Stephanie’s safety advised her not to meet or talk to this guy alone. They recommended she go straight to her company’s HR department and report the incident. She followed their advice and HR/Security ended up telling the guy to stop bothering her.  Hopefully he doesn't contact her again, but what an exhausting experience for Stephanie.
If someone you don’t know falsely accuses or harasses you, don’t hesitate to report them to authorities.  You do not need take this.

Mileage odometer on used car was rolled back:
An acquaintance recently traded-in his Pontiac Bonneville for a vehicle he purchased from an out-of-state dealership he found on Craigslist.  A few days later he spotted his former Bonneville (identified by a scratch he recognized on the advertisement's photo) also listed for sale on Craigslist.  There was just one little problem, his vehicle had had 175,000 miles on it.  This vehicle was advertised as having only 69,000 miles. He was sure it was his former vehicle.  The ad was from a dealership a few miles from the one he had worked with.   
He did not report the illegal odometer reading to Craigslist out of fear of retaliation. He also didn't think the odometer on the vehicle he purchased had been tampered with since he had verified the mileage on free CARFAX Odometer Check.  

The Carfax website provides the following tips to help used car buyers detect odometer fraud:
  • Ask to see the title and compare the mileage listed on the title with the vehicle's odometer. Examine the title closely if the mileage notation seems obscured or is hard to read.
  • Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle's maintenance or inspection records. You may also want to examine the mileage listed on oil-change and maintenance stickers. You may find these stickers on windows or door frames, in the glove box, or under the hood.
  • Get a free CARFAX Odometer Check to help uncover potential odometer rollback.
  • If the vehicle has a traditional mechanical odometer, check that the numbers on the odometer gauge are aligned correctly. If the gauge's numbers are crooked, contain gaps, or jiggle when you hit the dash with your hand, the vehicle may have been involved in odometer tampering.
  • Examine the tires. If the odometer reads 20,000 or less miles, the vehicle should have the original tires.
  • Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle – especially the gas, brake and clutch pedals – to see if the wear seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer.
A company is charged $2500 in late fees and interest on credit card payments made prior to the due date two months in a row:
This company mailed the credit card payments seven days prior to the due date, but their checks did not clear the bank until the day after the due date.  The first month the credit card company refused to reverse the charges and as a consolation offered a higher rebate on future purchases for the next two months. According to the company's next statement this additional rebate had not been put in place and the company was again charged $2,500 in interest and fees.  The company complained and the customer service rep again refused to reverse fees and offered an additional rebate.  Emails threatening to cancel the corporate account have been ignored. 

I came across this informative post from a former customer service rep with a leading national credit card company. The rep provides the following secret to getting fees waived:
If all else fails, RAISE HELL!! Customer service reps are NOT ALLOWED to disconnect (we were diligently & secretly monitored and scored on our performance) a call unless the customer is being verbally abusive and using lots of profanity. So get mad and go on-and-on, the rep will just get sick of hearing you that they'll waive the fee just to shut you up!! Keep in mind that I got 200 calls a day with approx. 80% of them being IRRATE customers. I was starved for satisfied customers that didn't yell or get aggressive.
Tomorrow I am informing the employee in charge of company credit cards to call the credit card company one more time, to be courteous yet persistent. This employee should go on and on and on about how much the company purchases from the credit card company's gas stations each month, how the payments are always made at least seven days prior to the due dates.  She should list every payment made this year giving amounts, due dates and payment dates.  She should inform the rep how upset the company’s owners are and that they want her to cancel the account and most importantly she should talk about the additional rebate the company never received.  All the while repeatedly asking for the fees to be reversed, for $5,000 it is worth a try.

If the company continues to use this credit card company, all future payments should be made on-line.

Have you been the victim of a scam or crime similar to those I've listed above? Do you have any additional preventative tips?

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:
How to Avoid Business Scams
Exposing Unethical Marketing Tactics
How to Avoid Being Conned on a Dating Site



  1. Excellent post,Savvy! And timely wth all of us out shoppng, eatng, and perhaps partying a wee bit.

  2. I use a wristlet, so my wallet usually ends up on the table at dinner and when I go out for a special occasion, I usually only take my license, one credit card and ATM, so I would know immediately if something was missing. That said, this post has me going over all the ways I am careless and need to be much more careful!

  3. Webb,
    Happy to see you out and about again. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Sorta Southern Single Mom,
    A wristlet is a great idea. I am investing in one. I have a couple of those wallet purses, but think I would prefer a purse without a strap.

  5. Excellent post! We all need to be a little extra vigilant and informed of our rights.

  6. It's so sad that we have to be so careful! Thanks for the post and tips! It's a good reminder for me to be careful! Thanks for visiting my blog today!

  7. Lots of invaluable info here, Savvy. I plan to share with my female co-workers. Several years ago, when I was in Europe I learned not to hang the purse on the back of the chair. It's an easy target. In Europe many restaurants and cafes have hooks built into the table so you can hang your purse. Here in the U.S., you can buy hooks that can hang on to the side of the table with the same effect. Every women with a purse should have one.

  8. Modern Gypsy,
    Yes we do.

  9. Jamie,
    It is sad. Sometimes too sad.

  10. Monica,
    What an excellent idea. I've seen these hooks at beauty salons. I am going to check into purchasing one. Thanks.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing my post, lady! Now that my blog is down for the time being, this will help others learn from my experience! I really appreciate our 'online friendship' -- even if it took me a little while to get over here :)

  12. Nicole,
    It's not like you haven't been busy or anything. I can't believe what a hellish nightmare this has been - you were definitely targeted by pros. If I were you I’d want to strap my wallet to my arm from now on. I appreciate our ‘online friendship’ too. You are such a sweet person, you didn’t deserve to have this happen to you. The only remotely positive thing that can come from this is to persuade others to be more cautious and to share the lessons you learned from this.

    I sincerely hope your nightmare ends soon and you can begin living your life again. I hope you have a happy New Year.