Our area continues to experience an epidemic of online and phone scams. Recently, several local police agencies, including Davidson, have reported the following scams related to Facebook Marketplace and the payment app Zelle. If you suspect a scam, hang up, block the caller, and/or remove access to your computer internet connection. Residents should never pay any bill, fine, or demand for money with gift cards, wire transfer, payment applications, or any other payment form without verifying the debt and company information independent of the caller. Here is a summary of the most recent scam and advice from Zelle.
The company that runs Zelle, Early Warning Services, says:
“When selling an item on Facebook Marketplace, consumers should be on the lookout for scammers. The exact mechanics of the scam vary, but in each case, the buyer (aka scammer) convinces the seller to send money via Zelle in order to ‘upgrade’ their Zelle account to release a pending payment.
It’s important to note that it is not possible to ‘upgrade’ your Zelle account. This is often followed by an official looking email purporting to be from Zelle and may even contain the Zelle logo. Consumers should know that Zelle will never send you an email regarding Facebook Marketplace or other online sales platform transactions. Any email appearing to be from Zelle related to online buying/selling is fake.”
Here are a few other tips:
- Be wary of quick responses and fast payment promises. If you post an item and you immediately get contacted with an offer to pay full price (or higher), consider giving it at least 24 hours to get other offers. Most people will ask for more information about the item or to see it in person first before offering to pay on the spot.
- Just because it looks professionally written, doesn’t mean it is. Scammers are more sophisticated than ever, so never rely on just grammatical errors to spot a scam.
- Urgency is almost always a red flag. If a potential buyer is urging you for your personal information and to pay you ASAP, take a second to evaluate the situation. If they push to get your phone number or email to make a digital payment, this usually means it’s a scam.
- Zelle will never send you an email regarding Facebook Marketplace. Zelle will never send an email from gmail.com or other free email services.
Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, one of our News of Davidson editors received 4 phone calls over a period of less than 10 minutes. They were all the same call. They all led with an ominous threat – “your electric bill has not been paid, and your service is scheduled to be cut within the next 30 minutes.”
Those calls originated from four different phone numbers – all with 704 area codes. Unlike the bothersome calls offering to extend vehicle warranties, these calls all suggested that immediate action was necessary to prevent “electric” from being turned off. Several options “press 1 for. . .” or “press 2 for. . .” were given. Our editor didn’t fall for the scam, but took note of how many calls in quick succession came in with the same threat.
This information was shared with Duke Energy.
July 7, 2022 Police Alert
During the past few months, the Davidson Police Department has seen an increase in scams and frauds in the region. Residents are reminded to never send money via Zelle, Venmo, CashApp, Amazon, Apple iTunes, Cryptocurrency, gift card, or any other form of payment to unknown persons on the phone or through email. Often, these scams threaten the victim with arrest, prosecution, or physical injury. Hang up, block the number, and report the incident to the police. If you have questions, concerns, or doubts, hang up and call customer service on a number you can independently verify.
Recently, police agencies in the Charlotte area have reported an online scam requesting residents to click on a text link to receive $10 off a shirt supporting their local police department. The recipient is then asked to fill in their bank account/credit card information to receive their t-shirt. These requests are a scam, as none of the police departments are selling shirts, nor do any of the proceeds come back to the agencies. PLEASE do not share any personal information over the phone or online with anyone you do not know personally or can independently confirm their identity.
Scams are always evolving to use new techniques and technology. Today’s tech-savvy scammers utilize all types of methods to gain access to accounts, convince victims they represent a legitimate entity, or collect your personal data and access codes. Some general awareness tips are:
- Look for “skimmers” when using a ATM or remote credit card reader. These are attached to the true devices but “skim” data from your card by reading the magnetic strip.
- Be aware of “phishing” technology – “phishing” or “spoofing” is the attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. This can be done with home phones with caller ID, cellular phones, or by email. if you receive an email or phone call that shows a business but they are asking for confidential information, don’t give out the information. Call the business or agency directly; or go to their office to verify they need the information. Most accounts are not verified through email or a phone call.
- Recently, criminals are creating realistic webpages (Phishing) of commonly used business; banks, credit card companies, utility companies, Amazon, USPS and internet service providers to steal information from unsuspecting victims.
- The common theme of all these scams is the payment of funds utilizing gift cards and pressure to get them quick! The criminals are able to provide information that pertains to the victims’ accounts in an attempt to convince the victim that they are a trusted business entity. Some situations include; needing checks repaid, family members in need of immediate funds or civil and criminal fines paid via gift cards. No legitimate business or government entity will ever require payment of funds via sending gift cards and PINs to an unknown individual!
- Once the criminals have the gift card number and PIN, the card balance is emptied in a matter of minutes by other groups around the country. This practice makes investigation and prosecution of these crimes very difficult. Making matters worse, since the gift cards were purchased willingly by the victims, all be it under fraudulent pretense, the credit card companies may hold the victim responsible for the repayment of the charges.
- If any resident suspects fraudulent activity, hang up and immediately use a verified phone number or email to contact the legitimate business. If intrusion or fraud has already occurred, change all passwords immediately and terminate any remote access by the fraudulent party. If a crime or suspected crime has occurred, contact the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of the crime to file a report. In addition, victims are entitled to one (1) free credit report from each of the agencies each year. If victims obtain one Experian, Transunion and Equifax report spread out over 12 months, they can monitor their credit for additional fraudulent activity every four months.
- Below is a list of trusted resources that residents can use to obtain additional information regarding gift card frauds and scams. In addition, there are links to frequently asked questions related to fraud alerts and credit freeze with the credit bureaus.
- Traditional scams involve solicitors offering services for a variety of services. Get estimates from local sources and insist on references from other local customers.
Additional questions can be sent to [email protected]