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Delaware Department of Justice
Attorney General
Kathy Jennings


Delaware’s Top 10 Scams


Delaware's Top 10 Scams in 2020The Consumer Protection Unit identified the Top 10 Scams Delawareans reported in 2020.

 

 

 

 

If you are a victim of a scam, please fill out a consumer complaint form at de.gov/consumercomplaint or by phone at (800) 220-5424.

Scammers use sophisticated tactics to defraud members of our community, including the most vulnerable among us. But quite frankly, anyone can become a victim of scam. Our Consumer Protection Unit has provided tips and advice for consumers on how to reduce the risk of being scammed. We strongly encourage consumers to visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website and/or the Better Business Bureau of Delaware’s website to learn about different scams and how to report them.

 

Identity thieves use a victim’s personal information (e.g., Social Security number, bank account information, and credit card numbers) to pose as that individual for their own gain. Using the target’s identity, the thief may open a credit account, drain an existing account, file tax returns, or obtain medical coverage.

Here are some tips:

Guard your financial information.

Never give out your social security number, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or any other personal or financial information to anyone you don’t know. And guard all your receipts–especially if they reflect your financial account numbers.

5 Ways to protect yourself from identity theft

Deal only with reputable vendors.

Avoid dealing with businesses you don’t know, especially when their offers come to you by e-mail or through telephone calls from people you don’t know. No matter how good the deal may sound, walk away. Identity thieves often pitch great deals to make sure they can lure their victims in quickly.

Shred old documents containing secure personal and financial information.

Regularly update passwords to strengthen security and minimize the risk of foul play.

Check your credit report often.

Evidence of identity theft often shows up before the victim even realizes what has happened. Criminals often attempt to get credit under other people’s names or social security numbers, and these attempts will show up on credit bureau reports.

Get up to 6 free credit reports each year until 2026 by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com, by phone at 877-322-8228, or mail your request to Annual Credit report Request Service, P.O. Box 10521, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Trust your instincts.

If you feel uncomfortable about doing business with someone or feel pressured to give up your confidential information, walk away. It is much better to take the time to think through an offer and to do more research than it is to hand over your confidential personal or financial information to a criminal. Legitimate businesses want your repeat business, and will gladly give you time to do your homework first.

 


What to do if You Suspect Identity Theft

If you are a victim of Identity Theft, the Attorney General recommends that you immediately take the following steps:

Step 1: Contact the police.

The first step you need to take is to report the fraud to your local police department. This step is important for two reasons: First, it immediately alerts local law enforcement to the crime. Second, it establishes that you acted diligently, and enables you to get a police report, complaint number or other similar record, which you may need when contacting some of your creditors. If you are not sure which law enforcement agency to contact, please call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at (800) 220-5424. The Consumer Protection Unit can help you get in touch with the proper police agency and can answer any other Identity Theft questions you may have.

Step 2: Promptly report the fraud to the three major credit bureaus.

Because identity thieves often attempt to obtain credit under your identity, it is important to promptly contact the three major credit bureaus to report the fraud. Ask each credit bureau to take a report, and to place a “fraud alert” on your credit report.

Also, ask each credit bureau to send you a copy of your credit report, so you can determine the extent of any unlawful credit activity that may have taken place using your identity. If you already have a police report, file number, or complaint number from your local law enforcement agency, you should give that information to the three major credit bureaus as well, to help them investigate any disputed accounts or other reports of fraud.

Step 3: Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report to prevent unauthorized release.

Equifax Security Freeze

(800) 525-6285
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
https://www.freeze.equifax.com/

Experian Security Freeze

(888) 397-3742
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

TransUnion Security Freeze

(800) 680-7289
P.O. Box 2000
Chester PA  19106
https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze

Step 4: Contact the Fraud Department of each of your creditors and banks.

Locate all your credit cards, your banks and other creditor information (such as utilities, cable, etc.) and contact their “fraud” departments. Report the fraud to each creditor, even if your account with that creditor has not been directly affected by the identity theft, to ensure each creditor is aware of the potential of a crime taking place. Ask each creditor to place a “fraud alert” on your account. If there are charges on your accounts that are illegal, most creditors will also ask you to submit a written report of the fraud, along with a police report, or a police complaint number or file number. If you need help with any of these steps, you may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at (800) 220-5424 to request the Attorney General’s Identify Theft Victim Kit. This kit contains everything you need to promptly report identity theft, and also includes an Identity Theft Affidavit which you may use to submit your theft reports to your creditors.

Step 5: Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) maintains a confidential, national Identity Theft database, and may also be able to assist in pursuing identity thieves through federal channels. The FTC may be reached at (877) IDTHEFT (877-438-4338)

 


Our Consumer Protection hosted a discussion on identity theft with DOJ Chief Special Investigator Alan Rachko, and FBI Agent Benjamin Lindemann. This chat was moderated by Marion Quirk.

 

Helpful Links:

 

These cons often involve purchases and sales, often on eBay, Craigslist, or other direct seller-to buyer sites. Scammers may pretend to purchase an item only to send a bogus check and ask for a refund of the “accidental” overpayment. In other cases, if the scammer is the seller, they never deliver the goods.

Here are some tips:

FTC shopping online tips

 

Tips on buying or selling on direct seller-to-buyer sitesIf you are buying off direct seller-to-buyer sites, remember:

Don’t email any financial information.

If you begin a transaction and need to give your financial information through an organization’s website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a URL that begins https (the “s” stands for secure).

Check the privacy policy.

It should let you know what personal information the website operators are collecting, why, and how they’re going to use the information.

Beware that even if you are able to cash a check or see funds recorded in your account statement, it may still be a fake.

If a buyer or seller tries to persuade you to go outside the site’s usual process or payment methods, that’s a big red flag 🚩.

 


Our Consumer Protection hosted a discussion on online shopping scams with DOJ Special Investigator LaVincent Harris, and Better Business Bureau Director of Business Jon Bell. This chat was moderated by Gina Schoenberg.

 

Helpful Links:

 

Online ads, social media pop-ups, or unsolicited phone calls come through and when a person is faced with deciding between paying debt or buying necessities, the messaging to “guarantee” a better credit score, alleviate debt or promise a better financial situation, the temptation to pay the upfront fee to relieve stress might be a mistake.

The companies that are calling or advertising online frequently promise – and charge for – impossible services. This includes removing past credit mistakes, such as late payments or bankruptcy, from your credit report. They offer to provide a new “credit identity” or negotiate with lenders or credit card companies to completely eliminate the debt.

Here are some tips:

Signs of a credit repair fraud

Signs of a credit repair fraud:

➡️ Guarantees results.

➡️ Asks for upfront payment.

➡️ Offers a new identity.

➡️ Doesn’t explain your legal rights.

➡️ Asks you to misrepresent information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Our Consumer Protection hosted a discussion on credit related scams with DOJ Deputy Attorney General Katie Devanney, and DOJ Paralegal Tiffany Williams. This chat was moderated by Rhynn Evans.

 

Helpful Links:

 

Imposter scams come in many varieties but work the same way: a scammer pretends to be someone you trust to convince you to send them money. Scammers can pretend to be anyone, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Tech Support, the Social Security Administration, or even a family member.

Here are some tips:

FTC IRS Imposter Scams Infographic

FTC IRS Imposter Scam infographic

 

 


Our Consumer Protection hosted a discussion on imposter scams with DOJ Deputy Director of Consumer Protection Gina Schoenberg, and Better Business Bureau Director of Business Jon Bell. This chat was moderated by Marion Quirk.

 

Helpful Links:

These complaints can include selling cars that have undisclosed problems or selling extended warranties but refusing to cover expenses. Additionally, car dealerships may put tempting deals in their advertisements, but when you try to close the deal, the deal is not what it looks like.

Here are some tips:

Get the vehicle’s history.

➡️ Visit the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) website at vehiclehistory.gov to get a vehicle history report with the title, insurance loss, and salvage information.

Tips on buying a used car

Get an independent vehicle inspection

to ensure it doesn’t have hidden damage.

Ask for the car’s maintenance record from the owner, dealer, or repair shop.

Check whether there are any unrepaired recalls on the vehicle.

You can check yourself by entering the VIN at safercar.gov, or by calling the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236.

 

Steer clear of auto warrant scams

If you get mail or phone calls about renewing your vehicle warranty, don’t take the information at face value.

Be alert to telemarketers pitching auto warranties using high-pressure tactics to hide their true motives. Most legitimate businesses will give you time and written information about an offer before asking you to commit to a purchase.

Be skeptical of any unsolicited sales calls and recorded messages.

If your phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry, you shouldn’t get live or recorded sales pitches unless you have specifically agreed to accept such calls.

Report violations or register a phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry at DoNotCall.gov or call 1-888-383-1222.


Our Consumer Protection Unit hosted a discussion on auto related scams with DOJ Special Investigator Pat Malone, and Better Business Bureau Director of Business Jon Bell. This chat was moderated by Rhynn Evans.

 

Helpful links:

 

 

Debt collectors generate more fraud reports to the FTC than any other industry. Although many debt collectors are careful to comply with consumer protection laws, others engage in illegal conduct. Some collectors harass and threaten consumers, demand larger payments than the law allows, refuse to verify disputed debts, and disclose debts to consumers’ employers, co-workers, family members, and friends.

Here are some tips:

FTC Debt Collection infographic

 


Our Consumer Protection Unit hosted a discussion on debt collection scams with DOJ Deputy Attorney General Katie Devanney, and DOJ Special Investigator Joe Rago. This chat was moderated by Zuri Ramsey.

 

Helpful Links:

Most sweepstakes scams have a few things in common. They claim that the recipient has won, or is about to win, a large cash prize. And they try to get the recipient to pay money, often supposedly to claim the bogus prize.

Here are some tips:

Prize Scams Infographic

Signs of prize scams:

➡️ You have to pay.

➡️ You have to wire money.

➡️ You have to deposit a check they have sent to you.

➡️ You are told they are from the government.

➡️ Your “notice” was mailed by bulk rate.

➡️ You get a call out of the blue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottery Scams infographic

Signs of a lottery scam:

➡️ You did not enter a lottery, but you receive a notice or call from a person claiming to work for the Delaware Lottery.

➡️ You receive a notice or call informing you that you have won a lottery in another country.

➡️ You receive a notice or call informing you that you have won a sweepstake, but you need to pay a fee in order to claim your winnings.

➡️ You receive a notice or call from a person claiming to work with the federal government or a “Federal Sweepstakes Board.”

 


Our Consumer Protection Unit hosted a discussion on prizes, sweepstakes, and lottery scams with DOJ Chief Special Investigator Alan Rachko, and AARP Delaware Communications Director Kimberly Wharton. This chat was moderated by Gina Schoenberg.

 

Helpful Links:

 

In this common con, scammers impersonate a bank or other credit card issuer. By verifying account information or offering a better interest rate, con artists try to fool you into sharing your credit card or banking information. Once they have this, scammers can make unauthorized transactions or commit identity theft.

Scammers reach out by phone, email, or text claiming to be from your bank or credit card company. Many begin as a “robocall” recording offering you a better interest rate, updating your information, sending you a new card, or verifying a purchase. The promise of a ridiculously low rate may come with an upfront charge, or the scammer may ask to confirm personal information such as the credit card number, security code, and address (which can be used for fraudulent charges and identity theft).

Here are some tips:

Credit Card Fraud infographic

Don’t lend your card to anyone, including your kids, roommates, or other loved ones.

Don’t give out your account number to anyone on the phone unless you have made the call to a company you know to be reputable.

Shred receipts, cards, and statements before throwing them away.

Carry your cards separately from your wallet. And carry only the card you need for the outing.

Check your bills promptly and reconcile them with the purchases you’ve made.

Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you will be traveling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Our Consumer Protection Unit hosted a discussion on credit card scams with DOJ Special Investigator Pat Malone, and DOJ Paralegal Rhynn Evans. This chat was moderated by Luke Meyer.

Helpful Links:

 

These scams and complaints arise from companies wrongfully using consumer data or private information, or not correctly storing consumer data.


Our Consumer Protection Unit hosted a discussion on privacy, data, and cyber threat scams with DOJ Director of Consumer Protection, and FTC Regional Director Jon Steiger. This chat was moderated by Luke Meyer.

Helpful links:

 

 

Listings are posted for properties that are not for rent, do not exist, or are significantly different from what’s pictured. In another variation, scammers claim to specialize in timeshare resales and promise they have buyers ready to purchase.

Here are some tips:

Travel & Timeshare Scams

“Free” vacations.

A legitimate company won’t ask you to pay for a prize. Any company trying to sell you a “free” vacation will probably want something from you. Be cautious.

Timeshare reselling cons.

Be careful about scammers contacting you claiming to be a real estate broker or agent stating to specialize in timeshare resales and promising they have buyers ready to purchase. They pressure owners into paying an upfront fee and once they do, the reselling agent never delivers.

Vacation rentals cons.

Watch out for scammers who post listings for properties that either aren’t for rent, don’t exist, or are significantly different than pictured. These con artists then lure in vacationers with the promise of low fees and great amenities.

Mandatory hotel fees.

Hotels listing the “resort fee” near the quoted price or in the fine print – or referring to other fees that “may apply” – isn’t good enough. If you find out a hotel hasn’t told you the whole story about mandatory fees, in addition to complaing to the company, file a complaint with the FTC.

 

 

 

 


Our Consumer Protection Unit hosted a discussion on travel, vacation, and timeshare scams with DOJ Director of Consumer Protection Marion Quirk, and DOJ Deputy Attorney General Jordan Braunsberg. This chat was moderated by Luke Meyer.

 

Helpful links:

Identity Theft Scams

  • What are your best tips for consumers?
    • Safeguard your information by shredding personal documents (bank statements).
    • Be alert to impersonation schemes.
    • Set up alerts on your accounts so you are notified of suspicious charges.
    • Look at your bank statements and credit card statements for unauthorized charges.
    • Check your credit report annually for any fraudulent activity.
  • What do the fraudsters commonly do with your personal information once stolen?
    • Open credit cards in your name.
    • Take out loans in your name.
    • Sign up for unemployment benefits in your name.
    • Sign up for social security benefits in your name.
  • How do you know if your identity is stolen?
    • You receive notice in the mail from a collection agency, credit card company, or other business (all of which you do not have accounts with) stating that you owe them for a past due bill.
    • You receive an email/text alert advising you of fraudulent credit card charges.
    • When checking your bank statement or credit card statements, you discover fraudulent charges on your account.

Online Shopping Scams

  • How do trends and patterns of complaints get analyzed to determine how to escalate and prioritize action?
    • We have several tools at our disposal to track and analyze trends. We review the statistics generated by those tools on a regular basis and work closely with our federal partners and other state Attorneys General.
  • How can we submit an inquiry for investigation to the Attorney General’s Office?
    • You can fill out our complaint form here
    • If you have any trouble, give us a call: (800) 220-5424
  • Is there an alert system in Delaware to let consumers know that an online scam has been discovered?
    • We routinely issue press releases on the latest scams and scam variations. We will also come speak to groups you are associated with about fraud and scams. These outreach events are free of charge and can be offered virtually (only virtual at this time).
  • What can I do to protect myself? Best tips?
    • Do your homework.
    • If the offer is too good to be true, it is likely a scam.
    • If you are victimized, report it.

Credit Card Scams

  • What are some additional ways to prevent credit card scams?
    • Shred any item that has account information.
    • Keep your cards safe- do not give the card or number to anyone, even your children.
    • When paying at a store thieves will try to take a picture of your card, so be on the lookout.
    • Stay with your card.
    • Review your statement monthly—yes, every month.
    • Make strong passwords and do not use the same password more than once.
  • How can you avoid robocall scams?
    • Register for the National Do Not Call List.
      • If you are on this list and continue to get calls, those are scam calls. The legitimate telemarketers will check the list before calling.
    • The FTC suggests three key steps consumers can take to help reduce unwanted calls: Hang up. Block. Report.

Imposter Scams

  • What are your best consumer tips regarding imposter scams?
    • Be suspicious about all links, phone calls, and mailings.
    • Trust your gut. When in doubt, do not act.
    • Government entities like the IRS, Social Security Administration, and Medicare will never threaten to arrest you, fine you, or cancel your benefits. Any suggestions that they will is a major red flag.
    • Always conduct independent verification
      • Do not use the communication for contact information. Go to an independent source to get contact information. For example, if you receive correspondence from your bank, contact them utilizing the information on your most recent statement or on the bank of your card.
    • Remember: anyone can make whatever they want appear on your caller ID. You cannot trust your caller ID.
    • Watch for these red flags
      • Communications about transactions you do not recall making
      • Calls to quick action
      • Requests or demands for money, especially wire transfers and the purchase of gift card or pre-paid cards
      • Threats of arrest or physical harm
    • IF IT IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT IS LIKELY A SCAM.
  • What should you expect if you file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Unit?
    • If no loss, we will track the information you provide in our internal and national databases to identify trends, target outreach, and make federal enforcement referrals where appropriate.
    • If you did experience financial loss, a Special Investigator will reach out to you. If you receive a communication from our office and you are not sure it is real, call us at 302-577-8600 to verify that the contact is legitimate.
    • If you file a complaint about a robocall or other phone call, make sure you collect the following information and submit your complaint immediately:
      • The phone number as it appears on your caller ID
      • The name, if any, as it appears on the caller ID
      • The exact time of day that you received the call

Auto Related Scams

  • How can I protect myself against car repair fraud?
    • Find a reputable mechanic by asking friends and colleagues for recommendations and checking the BBB for complaints.
    • You can also utilize AAA; they vet and endorse repair shops, and can help mediate disputes between members and approved shops.
    • If your check engine light comes on, you can take it to the parts store, and they can run a diagnostic to tell you why the light came on so you can approach your mechanic prepared.
  • How do I report a complaint to the Better Business Bureau?
    • Through the BBB website, bbb.org
    • The BBB is a great first step when an issue arises; not only can they help consumers address problems they might have with businesses, but they also publish complaints they receive, which can help other consumers, too.

Debt Collection Scams

  • What does someone do when a debt collector uses “spoof” technology to mask their phone numbers?
    • Spoofing is when someone makes a call that appears to come from a number other than their own. You should report all spoofing by debt collectors or creditors to the Consumer Protection Unit and/or the FTC.
  • Are debt collectors obligated to give consumers their information if a consumer asks?
    • Yes, if a consumer asks for their information, debt collectors are required to disclose their name, address, and phone number. Also, a reputable debt collection company is likely to willingly give this information because they want the consumer to know where to contact them with payments. Be very careful dealing with a debt collector that will not divulge their information.
  • Where can consumers go to research more information on debt collection?
    • Consumers can google the company‘s name, check the company’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages, as well as the local BBB.
    • Cross-referencing individuals that appear on company websites, such as their CEO or CFO, with the company social media pages is also a way to research the legitimacy of a debt collector.

Prizes, Sweepstakes, and Lottery Scams

  • What are the red flags that I might be dealing with a scam?
    • You get a notice that you won but you never played.
    • You are told that you must pay upfront fees and taxes before they can award your prize.
    • Claims that you have won “unclaimed” winnings.
  • What should I do if I have been victimized?
    • File a complaint with our office and the FTC.
  • Any other tips?
    • Take advantage of services through your phone provider to block spoofed or manufactured phone numbers.
    • Remember: anyone can pay for a mailing or an internet ad. Having these things does not make an entity legitimate.
    • Before you act, call a family member, friend, or us. Talk to someone about what is going on.

Consumer Credit Scams

  • What can we expect to see in 2021 in terms of consumer credit scams?
    • Unfortunately, we expect to see folks really struggling with credit—we’re expecting to see an uptick in scams relating to consumer credit as a result.
  • Where can viewers make a complaint if they are concerned about an unfair mark on their credit report or a debt relief company?
    • Start with the company itself. Reputable organizations care about correcting their mistakes and keeping their customers happy.
    • Report it to CPU! We need patterns to act most efficiently.
    • Report it to the FTC.

Privacy, Data Security, and Cyber Threat Scams

  • Is there anything businesses should be aware of in terms of phishing?
    • Most people think phishing could only happen to individuals, but businesses are just as much at risk to phishing scams as individual consumers are.
    • There is an entire subcategory called the Business Email Compromise, which can be extremely sophisticated.
    • Just as you are in your personal life, when you’re at work or you own a business, be on the lookout for phishing emails. Train your employees on phishing scams and how to spot them.
  • How can you spot a tech support scam?
    • If you ever receive a text or call from a number that claims to be a company such as Apple or Microsoft, you should immediately think of it as a scam. Legitimate companies will not be contacting you about a potential tech issue.
    • As super red flag is when someone asks you to pay them using a means that is not typical money, such as Bitcoin or Gift cards.

Travel, Vacation, and Timeshare Scams

  • What should you do before signing up for a timeshare?
    • Similar to vacation rentals, do your research! Make sure that the company that is selling the timeshares is legit. If it is a Marriot timeshare, make sure it is actual Marriot selling the timeshare.
    • Additionally, ensure that the paperwork matches what the promotional information says. Be sure you know what the contract that you’re signing says, regardless of what the salesperson told you.
    • Never send money/pay for a timeshare before you’ve signed the contract. There is no need to pay money before you sign.
  • What if you’ve put in for a vacation contest and you’re told you have won, but you’re not sure if it is actually true?
    • Three avenues:
      • Cross-reference the contact information for the vacation contest and the contact information of the person who contacted you to let you know you’ve won. If they’re different, that’s a red flag. And reach out to the company that the contest is with.
      • If there are hotels or resorts involved, independently contact that hotel/resort to make sure the contest is legit.
      • If there is travel involved (airplane, train, rental car, etc.) independently contact that hotel/resort to make sure the contest is legit.
  • How can you research a rental company?
    • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the company has gotten any complaints in the past
    • Check the company’s social media pages to see how they represent themselves.
    • Check reviews online! If someone had a bad experience, they’re likely to post about it online.
  • What can you do if you think you’ve been a victim of a rental scam?
    • Three steps:
      • Reach out to your banks/financial institutions. Make sure they are aware that you have been a victim of a scam. This should, hopefully, stop future problems.
      • Gather information about the scam
      • Make a decision if you are going to follow up with law enforcement. You can file a police report, file a complaint with the BBB or the FTC, or file a complaint with our office.
    • What information is helpful to report rental scams?
      • Contact information (phone number, email, name of contact, or company).
      • Screenshots of your communications (emails, texts, documents you signed).
      • Timeline of the scam – when you were first contacted to when you realized it was a scam.


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