Wintertime scams

Tis the season for scams!


January 5, 2022

Tis the season for scams during the holidays, but the wintertime also brings its own set of scams and fraud to watch out for.

Gift Card Scams

Gift cards aren’t just a fraud issue during the holidays, scammers will try all year long. We recently had a member fall victim to one.

He received an email claiming to be from MidWest America about a couple of fraudulent debit card charges on his account and asked him to call a Florida phone number. The scammer then convinced him to buy gift cards and promised the money back once the charges were cleared up. They identified themselves as Kevin and provided an employee ID #.

If someone calls and asks you to buy gift cards to fix a problem with your account – it is ALWAYS a scam. Hang up the phone. Then look up the number of the company that they are claiming to be from and call to see if they can verify what they told you. Once you load money onto a gift card it is nearly impossible to get it back which is why the scammers go with this tactic.

Snow Removal Scams

Shoveling snow can be exhausting and dangerous especially if you're older or have injuries. There are many snow removal companies and contractors who can remove it for you for a fee. We recommend getting several bids to compare your local prices and if an offer sounds too good to be true, that’s your cue to do some research on Google or with your BBB to see what other people are saying about the company. Be sure to ask for references from the company itself.

Once you’ve decided on a company, it's very important to request a written contract. Most snow removal contracts take two forms: pay-per-plow or pay-per-season. Make sure that you understand cancellation fees and any extra charges, like for sidewalks and porches, that might apply. If a contractor expects you to pay everything upfront that should be a red flag. Most reputable pay-per-season snow removal services contracts ask you to pay once at the beginning, middle, and end of the season. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions, you should understand what you are paying them for.

Furnace Inspection Scams

Another seasonal fraud involves scammers trying to scare you into letting them inspect your furnace and pay a large sum to unnecessarily fix it. They might tell you that your furnace needs to be repaired and replaced, even when it doesn't. They may even try to scare you into these faux inspections by telling you that your furnace is leaking dangerous gases that could explode or poison those inside the house.

These scammers may try to intimidate you into paying immediately. They may also ask for payment through debit cards or wire transfer only, which is another red flag. A real utility company will accept a check or credit card.

These scammers may call you first or knock on your door in person. They will claim to be from the local gas company or another utility company. Some will even wear plausible work uniforms and have convincing paperwork. The BBB advises that if such a person shows up to not let them inside your house. If you feel pressured to do something immediately, hang up or close the door and try calling your utility company directly through their publicly listed phone number from your bill or their website. Always take the time to confirm information you are getting verbally in-person or on the phone. It will save you both time and money and hopefully prevent a scammer from taking your hard-earned money.