Pure Vermont Newsletter Articles February 2013
In reviewing wire transfer
scam complaints that were reported
to our office in 2012, consumers lost over $200,000. The type
of scam that caused the greatest amount of financial loss is the
Grandparent scam, where the total loss reported by VT consumers was
$84,296. Grandparent and Timeshare Resale scams were the
most successful in scamming people out of their money. Consumers
reported $61,961 in loss to Timeshare Resale scams.
Though scams take many
forms, the common trend is that
consumers are contacted out of the blue by a person and then asked to wire transfer, or
otherwise send money. In the Grandparent scam, victims
receive a call, claiming to be from or on behalf of a grandchild that
needs money to resolve an emergent situation. The caller
demands that the call remain a secret, thus prohibiting the grandparent
to call anyone to ensure the safety of their family member.
In situations where Vermonters are
scammed relative to the resale of a timeshare, the scam typically
involves an immediate request for the victim to wire money because a
supposed company has a potential buyer for a timeshare property that
the victim has not been able to sell. The scam often requires
several transfers for a "service deposit," "insurance," "taxes," or
fees for an "attoreny." It typically is not until after the wired
money has been picked up by the scammer that the victim realizes it was
Wire fraud is the most
common type of scam and a continuing
problem. Currently the best prevention against such fraud is
awareness. In light of this, our office created a wire
transfer fraud brochure, which provides specific tips on spotting scams
and noticing trends. Our office mailed this brochure to
agencies in the state that serve Vermont seniors. Our hope is
that with more people aware, less will become victimized. We
encourage agencies to establish and recommend prevention
protocols such as verifying recipient validity and
identity before sending any money.
awareness of romance scams and "catfishing" is becoming more prominent
with recent news reporting because a famous football player was the
victim of an online dating scam, it is not new. Last year,
14% of wire
fraud complaints reported to our office involved a false romantic
relationship with an online love interest found through Zoosk.com and
Once the scammer is convinced you are hooked they
come up with a myriad of excuses as to why they can never meet in
person. They also constantly ask you to send them
money to pay for
various expenses: to purchase an airline ticket to visit you, to help
meet monthly expenses, or to help pay for another unexpected
As unrealistic as it may seem, online dating scams are more common and
more believable than you may think. Today, meeting a love
interest online has become part of the norm and will continue to become
more and more common as
continues to be the avenue by which people begin talking and
When dating online, Vermonters should know the signs:
They come up with continued excuses that
prevent you from meeting in person.
They request that you send
them money or give them financial support.
They solicit you to take part in a
Requests for personal information, such
as social security number and bank account numbers.
Requests for approval to be an
authorized user on a credit card or requests for permission to use your
They refuse to provide additional photos
and refuse to chat with you via webcam.
Scammers that lure their victims via the relationship scam attempt to
pull on your heart strings to convince you to fall for their lies.
The relationships seem so real because scammers dedicate a
lot of time to convincing you they are a committed partner.
They may engage you in continuous conversation and chats in
the pursuit. These tactics lured the football
player, Manti Te'o, to be strung along
by a fake love interest for two years. The same
tactics convinced a Vermonter to send over
$100,000 to support a supposed loved one over three years ago.
Know the signs and always take precautions when
pursuing relationships online. -And, have a Happy Valentine's
has been providing a letter mediation service, assisting with consumer
complaints against businesses, for 30 years. Complaints
help the Attorney General’s Office pursue consumer protection
Though people tend to think of a consumer as
an individual or person, Vermont’s Consumer Protection Statute defines
consumer to include businesses that are the consumer in a transaction,
such as when purchasing goods or services that are not for
resale. (Link to Statute)
At the end of the legislative
session in 2012, the Vermont legislature determined to provide greater
support to CAP, which has enabled the program to expand
the program’s consumer services to businesses as well. As a
preliminary step, we launched a "For Business" section on our the
website, which already includes helpful information for businesses
regarding unsolicited merchandise, cyber security, and gift cards.
Vermont is about bringing consumer awareness to every door step while
celebrating the wholesome values that Vermonters are known for, such
as helping our neighbors, caring for our community, and
fair dealing in the marketplace. The most important component
the Pure Vermont initiative is you.
businesses, and organizations that embody the Pure Vermont values, the
program will not be successful. The program provides a new
opportunity for community members to signup with the Consumer
Assistance Program as Ambassadors. Ambassadors will pledge to
share consumer knowledge and information with others.
will receive regular updates via the Pure Vermont E-Newsletter and
receive emails from the Attorney General’s Office regarding current
happenings and settlements via press releases.
members that embody the Pure Vermont way may later be recognized or
awarded. The Pure Vermont Newsletter will extend recognition
appreciation to individuals that have helped the consumer protection
cause in Vermont. Pure Vermont Award recipients will be
based on their nomination that informs how the individual, business, or
organization exemplifies Pure Vermont values.
To sign up as an Ambassador, please email CAP.
Pure Vermont Award was issued on Thursday, July 12, 2012, to Ms. Carol
Goehring, a St. Johnsbury Price Chopper Associate, who prevented a
Vermont senior from losing $1000 to wire fraud. Learn
more about the award recipient.
nominate someone for the Pure Vermont Award, please fill out the
nomination form now.
Unauthorized Charges on Business Account Phone Bills
When unauthorized charges show up your business' phone bill, they often
go unnoticed as the charges tend to be relatively small. Our
office cautions that over the course of a year those small
can really add up. Do more with your bills then just pay
Review them for complete accuracy. You could save
the long run.
The Attorney General recently
obtained refunds for Vermont businesses that were charged by Local Area
Yellow Pages without consent. Some businesses received
excess of a thousand dollars. For settlement information,
the Attorney General's website.
We Are Interested in Your Input
CAP has adapted as needed since
its inception 30 years ago, but has only recently been charged by the
VT legislature to focus our purpose on businesses too. We are
diligently working on producing an electronic survey so that we can
concisely gather your input and assess how we can best address your
needs relative to consumer protection. Businesses, please
for this survey in your inbox and on our website. We hope to
partner with the Chamber and possibly other organizations to distribute
the survey, as well as post the survey on our website.
Support Scam” Worsens
What looked to primarily be a phishing scam, appears to have developed
into credit card fraud. Reportedly, scammers have been using
credit card information to open
online Western Union accounts. They then send a wire transfer
using the stolen credit card numbers.
previously informed you of the tech support scam where consumers either
receive a popup message on their computer, directing them to
call a number, or they receive a
phone call from someone claiming to be computer tech support.
Typically the scammer gains remote access to your
computer by taking you through a series of steps. Then they
you for your credit card number to charge you for "virus protection,"
or other supposed services.
False IRS Demands
Tax Season! Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when scammers
like to call you and pretend to be the IRS. Should anyone call
demanding your social security number, bank account information, or any
other financial information. The IRS typically attempts to
in writing. It is always advisable not to give out your
information if you cannot verify the source.
If need be, you may contact the IRS directly for verification. The
Burlington IRS office can be reached at (802) 859-9308.
Go to the Consumer Assistance Program Website: www.uvm.edu/consumer