As spring nears, keep an eye out for swindles and ripoffs for home repairs, especially if asked to pay for the materials in advance, suggests Charlie Maiden Jr., sheriff of Carroll County, in his Carrollton newspaper column. Home-repair scams often target the elderly, leaving a list of victims that is extensive and countless.
Charity scams linked to last year’s hurricanes in the south are flourishing too.
Bogus solicitors might come to your door or solicit donations via e-mail or telephone. Con artists often say that cash is preferred, but legitimate ones are happy to take checks.
Oil and gas deals and investments in water-purification technology and energy-generating devices should also raise red caution flags, says Franklin Widmann, president of the North American Securities Administrators, which represents state securities regulators.
The victim scam
Watch out, too, if you’re contacted in person or via e-mail by someone who says his money is stuck in a bank safe-deposit box in New Orleans and he’s waiting for it to be opened, or needs cash to tide him over until an insurance settlement is received. This person doesn’t want a handout, just a short-term “loan,” and he’ll give a handsome financial reward in exchange for your help. This “victim” is probably a scam artist and you’ll never hear from him again if you make the loan.
Promissory notes and shares
Deregulation in 1999 of the brokerage and insurance industries helped create an environment ripe for ripoffs that cost consumers $10 billion a year.
Nationwide, regulators have received the most complaints about promissory notes, which are short-term notes often used by start-up companies and pay up to 15 percent per month in interest. The returns are said to be guaranteed by an insurance company, but in many cases the start-up company fails and the insurance provider proves to be phony.
Unlicensed stock dealers are profiting from panic over the energy crisis by selling (often over the Internet) fake public ownership shares in everything from natural-gas fields to oil-exploration firms. To protect yourself, check the company’s Web site and prospectus, call the Securities and Exchange Commission at (800) 732-0330 or North American Securities Administrators Association at (202) 737-0900, or check online at www.nasaa.org.
HELP WITH FRAUD
Better Business Bureau of Central and Eastern Kentucky
Better Business Bureau of Louisville, Western Kentucky, and Southern Indiana
American Institute of Philanthropy’s list of top-rated charities
National Fraud Information Center
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