Warnings about Scams & Rip-Offs

Provided by Ernest Adams, Mobile Notary Public

The Real Free Credit Report Web Site

Other Sites offering "free" reports usually require paying for some service, such as "monitoring" your credit.

The Web Site WWW.AnnualCreditReport.Com is the real Site established by the Federal Government for consumers to receive their truly free credit report once a year. There are no fees.

Because there are three major credit reporting business in the United States, what some people do is request their free annual credit report from Experian (for example) in January, then wait four months. In May they request their free report from Equifax, then in September from TransUnion. In January they are eligible to receive their free report again from Experian. That way they are staying on top of their credit history all year without ever paying for a report.

WWW.AnnualCreditReport.Com also has links to the TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax Sites so that you can request your free credit report by phone or mail.

United States Federal Government Do Not Call Registry Website

Some people have asked how they can register to stop receiving unwanted telephone calls from telemarketers.

The official Do Not Call List website is WWW.DoNotCall.Gov.

Neither the Do Not Call Registry nor the Federal Trade Commission will call you!

Scammers or rip-off artists may call you and offer to add you to the Registry for a fee. There is no fee to get your phone number on the Registry. Don't get ripped off!

What is a Scam?

A scam is nearly always illegal, usually involving what would be legally called fraud, that is, deceit for personal gain. Scams are sometimes called confidence games because the con artist gains the victims' confidence in order to bilk them.

An example of a scam is a newspaper advertisement that offers a work-at-home opportunity stuffing envelopes. The reader is told to send $20 to a certain Post Office box to receive a kit. After waiting weeks, the victim checks with the Post Office and finds that the box has been closed and that the advertiser cannot be found. Everyone who sent in money is now $20 poorer.

By now most people have heard of the Nigerian Letter scam. The victim receives an email message promising to share money which the sender cannot personally access. The victim's bank account numbers are needed to transfer the money, according to the email, and the email author needs some good faith money to seal the deal. If the victim provides the account numbers, the victim will find that money has left the account, and none has gone into it or ever will.

Scams often rely on the victim being aware that the deal may not be thoroughly legal, therefore the victim may think twice about contacting the authorities.

What is a Rip-Off?

A rip-off is a bad deal. Usually it is not illegal. In a rip-off, the purchaser gets what they paid for; in a scam, the goods or service is not delivered.

An example of a rip-off is the newspaper advertisement that offers an engraved portrait of Abraham Lincoln for $35, including a serial-numbered authentication. If the reader were to send $35, he or she would receive a new, crisp $5 bill. Did the ad deliver what was promised? Absolutely! Was it worth the money paid?

Another example: The caller offers the "... secret recipe for [famous name] cookies for only four ninety-five." The victim buys and does receive a recipe in the mail. And a charge on the credit card for four hundred ninety-five dollars, not the expected four dollars and ninety-five cents. A phone call to the cookie manufacturer reveals that the real recipe is never sold.

Are there good Web Sites to check out scams and rip-offs?

The Web Site WWW.Snopes.Com is one very good place to check out rumors. An Internet search using your favorite search engine will probably help you determine whether something is true or risky.

Why are the following scams and rip-offs listed here?

Some scams and rip-offs are widely known, with newer variations cropping up. This list is intended to serve as a warning of the types of things to look for.

Nothing on this Page is to be considered as legal advice. Please see the Disclaimer. If in doubt about the legality of an offer, please contact your local police department or an attorney.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

The Jury Duty Scam

The victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to be calling on behalf of the local court. The caller says that there is a warrant for the victim's arrest because of failure to show up for jury duty. Alarmed, the victim claims not to have received the notice. The caller agrees to look into the matter and requests the victim's Social Security Number and other personal information.

If the victim gives the caller information, the caller may come back on the line and say that the problem has been resolved, or perhaps the caller will say that it was really someone else who failed to appear.

In any event, if the victim reveals personal information their identity will be stolen.

In Connecticut, nearly all jury transactions are handled via the Postal Service (U.S. Mail). Never give your Social Security Number or other personal information to a caller. If you feel that you need to resolve an issue, hang up and call the phone number listed in your phone book. If you find that someone tried to trick you into revealing your private information, call the police and report the incident.

One Debit Card or Credit Card Scam

The caller claims to be calling from the Security and Fraud Department of the cardholder's credit card company, probably giving a badge number. The caller gives the name of the cardholder's bank, and perhaps the last four digits of the card number. The cardholder is told that the account has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern and is asked whether there has been a recent $497 purchase from a company based in Arizona.

The cardholder replies that no such purchase was made.

The caller states that a refund will be made before the next statement. The caller says that the $497 price is under the $500 amount that would normally trigger most cards. (So far, the cardholder hasn't been asked for any confidential information, so no alarm bells have gone off in the cardholder's mind. The cardholder is probably grateful that fraud has [supposedly] been caught.) The caller gives the cardholder's address and asks for it to be confirmed.

The cardholder verifies the address.

The caller states that a fraud investigation is being begun. The cardholder is told to call the (800) number on the back of the card if there are any questions, and the caller gives a case number for the cardholder's future reference. (Still no request for private information.)

(Here's the vital part of the scam) The caller says that the cardholder needs to prove that the card is still in the cardholder's possession. The caller asks for the three security numbers on the back of the card.

The cardholder provides the three numbers, the caller says that that is correct and the card obviously has not been lost or stolen but is in the possession of the cardholder.

The caller concludes the conversation by asking whether the cardholder has any questions. The cardholder is reminded to call the (800) number on the back of the card if there are questions in the future.

The scam seems legitimate because the cardholder says very little and the caller never asked for the card number. The difficulty is that the three security digits are the key to making an online or telephone purchase.

Nearly all credit cards have some kind of fraud protection, and some debit cards do also. Debit card users may find it more difficult to get their funds back because the money is taken from the account immediately.

The Certified Deed Rip-Off

The victim receives a letter in the mail advising that copies of certain documents should be kept in the home. Among them are Wills, Advance Directives, Powers of Attorney, and Deeds.

Please note that, so far, this is good advice. Upon hearing of a safety deposit box renter's death, the bank must seal the box and deny access to the contents. Anyone who has an Advance Directive, Healthcare Agent form, Will, Power of Attorney assignment, et cetera, should keep at least one copy of the document at home, in a place known to several other people. When the document is needed most it might be inaccessible if it were in a safe deposit box.

The letter offering to provide a certified deed usually mentions a fee of between $50.00 and $75.00. In reality, in Connecticut anyone can get a certified copy of their deed by going to their town hall (or city hall). The fees that the state of Connecticut mandates are $1.00 per page plus $2.00 for the certification. That means a certified two-page deed would cost the property owner $4.00; a five-page deed would cost $7.00. (Most deeds are between two and five pages.)

There is nothing illegal in charging you $50.00 for something you could get yourself for less than $10.00, unfortunately. If you feel that you need a certified copy of a recorded document, go to your Town Clerk yourself or get a trusted friend or relative to go on your behalf. The Clerk will issue a receipt showing the amount paid.


I am not an attorney. ¡Yo no soy Notario Publico! I cannot give legal advice.

If you need legal help, please consult an attorney authorized to practice law in Connecticut (or the state in which you live). All opinions expressed on this Site are that of a layman, except where cited sources are clearly noted.

The only language I speak, read, and write is English. ¡No habla Español!

I can notarize the signature on a document only if the signer and I can communicate in English, either verbally or in writing. We cannot use a translator.

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Version 6.02   30 April 2016