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Local Scams - Updated October 2014
Posted: 10/22/2014
Identifying Scams and Tips to Avoid Them

The following are some common scams the Bloomington Police Department has investigated, and tips to help prevent you from becoming a victim.  For further information, review the Bloomington Police Department's Identity Theft Brochure and Scam Brochure.

 

Utility Bill (Ameren) Scam   

The Bloomington Police Department has received two local reports of the following scam.

FTC Warns of Utility Bill Scam That Asks for Payment via GreenDot, Paypal or Prepaid Gift Card Imagine receiving a phone call from your utility company (Ameren locally) saying they’re about to cut off your electricity. The caller ID looks like it might be a legitimate phone number, but you know you’ve paid your bill. The caller says, “I can stop this, but only if you pay me.”

It’s a scam, but there’s a new twist. Instead of asking you to wire money, a new scam wants you to use GreenDot, buy a prepaid gift card, or use PayPal. Scammers using reloadable debit cards, gift cards, or PayPal is not new, but it’s growing. It lets them get your money in a way that you’ll never get it back.

Scammers can use computers to make it look like they’re calling from one place – when, in fact, they’re someplace else. If you get a call, email, text, or even a visit from someone telling you to make a payment via PayPal, or to buy a GreenDot card or a gift card, it’s probably a scam. Call your utility company on the phone number that appears on your bill, describe what happened, and report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission, online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Grandparents Phone Scam

The Bloomington Police Department has received two reports of a phone scam where the suspect identified themselves as the victim's grandchild.

The victims received a phone call from a suspect who was pretending to be the victim's real life grandchild. The suspect stated they were out of state and had been in a serious traffic accident. The suspect needed money so the other driver would not pursue charges or because they were arrested for underage drinking and driving. The suspect asked the victim not to tell their parents and to immediately wire money or use a Green Dot card (prepaid debit card). The victim's sent the scammer thousands of dollars and later learned their grandchild was safe and never involved.

*In a variation of the scam the suspect claims they are in jail (not an accident).  Learn more FTC.

Tips to Avoid Phone Scams

  • Avoid sending wire transfers, prepaid debit cards, cashier's checks, and money orders based on a request made over the phone or email 
  • Verify the information
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly

 

IRS Phone Scam 

The Bloomington PD has received inquiries involving a common phone scam. Local residents have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS or some other law enforcement agency. On some calls, the scammers have personal information on the targeted victim or his/her spouse to include a partial social security number.

In several instances callers have been told that Bloomington PD will be sending officers to the victim's address to arrest them if they don't send tax payments to the bogus IRS employee/agent.

Bloomington PD does not schedule arrests and will not call anyone in advance before making an arrest.

For additional information and resources, please visit the IRS.GOV.

 

Fraud Alert: Counterfeit Currency Reported July 2014 

On July 11 2014, the McLean County Chamber of Commerce has received reports this afternoon of counterfeit currency being detected by some of our area businesses. Please take the necessary steps to protect your business from this deceptive currency. If you do find your business has been subjected to counterfeit bills, please report it to local law enforcement.

 

Government Grant Scam - July 2014  

An elderly Bloomington resident received an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be a part of the "Federal Grants Administration".

The scammer claimed the resident had won a grant and could get free money from the Federal Grants Administration by going to Western Union. When asked for additional information, like what the grant was for, what the address was for the Federal Grants Administration, etc. the scammer hung-up. See information from the FTC to learn more about the scam. http://ow.ly/z15uX

Tips to Avoid SCAMS -
• Be aware of unsolicited calls where you win money for no reason.
• Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know.
• Place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. www.donotcall.gov. or call 1-888-382-1222.
• Hold on to your money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies because wiring money is the same as sending cash. When the money’s gone, there’s very little chance of recovery.

File a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

 

Injury Institute SCAM - June 2014

SCAM ALERT - BPD has received one local report that a business is soliciting citizens and saying it is on the Bloomington Police Department's behalf. The citizen took a call from someone claiming to be a representative of the Injury Institute. The representative was calling in reference to an accident that the citizen's elderly in-laws were involved in. The representative stated he was calling at the direction of the Bloomington Police Department. When the caller started asking who from the police department directed them to call the person hung-up. The caller suspected that the representative was trying to inappropriately generate business.

It should be noted, the Injury Institute does not have authorization to solicit citizens on the Bloomington Police Department's behalf. If you receive a call please contact the Bloomington Communications Center at 820-8888 to report the incident. Any contact information for the representative would be useful. Thanks!

Jamaican Lottery Scam Alert

BPD has received one local report of the Jamaican phone scam targeting seniors.

According to the FTC - Fraudulent telemarketers based in Jamaica are calling people in the U.S., telling them that they’ve won a sweepstakes or foreign lottery. “Winners” need only pay fees for shipping, insurance, customs duties or taxes before they can claim their prizes.

Recognize and Report Phone Fraud
Fraudulent telemarketers often “guarantee” that you’ve won valuable prizes, like vacations, cars or large sums of cash. But they want you to pay “fees” for shipping, taxes, customs or other supposed expenses.
If you get a call from out of the blue telling you that “you’re a winner”:
• don’t pay any money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you’re not winning — you’re buying. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay “insurance,” “taxes” or “shipping and handling charges” to collect your prize.
• hold on to your money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies because wiring money is the same as sending cash. When the money’s gone, there’s very little chance of recovery. Likewise, resist any push to send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier. Con artists recommend these services so they can get their hands on your money before you realize you’ve been cheated.
• remember that phone numbers can deceive. Internet technology allows con artists to disguise their area code so it looks like they’re calling from your local area. But they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
• keeping your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself.

If you experience telemarketing fraud of any type, report it online to the FTC or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

To locate a U.S. Postal Inspector and file a complaint concerning any mailings within the U.S. or from Jamaica, contact 1-877-876-2455. Follow the prompts in order to speak with a local postal inspector. Please provide them with the same details as you provide to the Homeland Security tip line.

Craigslist Overpayment Scam

The Bloomington Police Department has received two local reports regarding overpayment scams through Craigslist.

The victims report they placed an item for sale on craigslist.org. The victims were contacted by a scammer who stated they wanted to buy the item.  The scammer stated they would send a certified check because they were out of town.  The scammer advised they hired movers to pick-up the item.  The scammer sent the check for over the purchase amount of the item stating the rest should be used to pay the movers.  The scammer then asked the victims to wire the money (difference in the purchase price and check amount) to the movers via WalMart MoneyGram.  The checks were not legitimate.

 
Tips to Avoid Scams on Craigslist

Avoid wire transfers, cashier's checks, and money orders
Stay local
Never give out financial information
Avoid deals involving shipping, movers, or escrow services

 

 Busey Bank Vishing SCAM - March 2014

Busey Bank warns customers in Illinois are reporting automated calls saying a card has been deactivated and asking for debit card and personal information. The scammers are using Busey’s name. Please remember Busey will never contact you requesting personal information. If you provided your card information we recommend you monitor online banking closely and order a new card. See link to website

Tech Support Phone Scam - February 2014

The Bloomington Police Department has received multiple reports of tech support phone scams occurring locally. Check out the link to learn what you need to know. Remember - never trust unsolicited calls and do not provide any personal information. Link to Microsoft article on how to avoid tech support phone scams.

"One-ring" Cell Phone SCAM - February 2014

The Bloomington Police Department has received local reports of the "one-ring" cell phone scam.One-Ring Scam

The Better Business Bureau is warning cell phone users about a new scam that can result in unauthorized charges appearing on their monthly wireless statement.

It's called the "One Ring" scam because the scammers program computers to send thousands of calls to random cell phone numbers, ring once and then disconnect. The scammers then hope you are curious enough about the phone call that you return the call right away.

When the cell phone owner returns the call, they are charged $19.95 for an international call fee. After that, there is a $9.00 per minute charge. It’s reported that often they will first hear music followed by advertising. So,it’s easy to see how quickly these charges can add up. Consumers who have been duped by these calls report that they are coming from the Caribbean Islands including Grenada, Antigua, Jamaica and the British Virgin Islands.

If a person thinks they may have fallen for this scam, they should immediately alert their cell phone carrier and keep an eye on their cell phone bill. The earlier they document the fraud, the better their chances of having some or all of the charges removed.

To be as safe as possible, the BBB recommends the best thing to do if your phone rings and it's an international number you don't recognize, don't answer it and don't call back.
Link to original article on BBB.

Scam calls usually come from outside the United States, including from numbers with area codes 268, 809, 876, 284, and 473.

IRS Phone SCAM - January 2014

The Bloomington Police Department has received one report of a phone SCAM involving the IRS.  The Internal Revenue Service wants to warn consumers about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers IRS website.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.” Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail

Other characteristics of this scam include:

•Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
•Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
•Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
•Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
•Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
•After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

•If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
•If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
•If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Home Repair Scams - December 2013

The Bloomington Police Department wants to warn residents to be aware of home repair scams, especially after a major storm.  Residents have reported receiving unsolicited calls from subjects identifying themselves as contractors wanting to do estimates for storm damage.  The phone calls persist even after the residents have advised they are not interested. 

National Do Not Call Registry: call 888-382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov

Follow the tips below to help avoid home repair scams:

• Verify the name, address, telephone number or credentials of the remodeler (if they will not provide this it is a red flag).  
• Ask people you trust for contractor referrals.
• Check out contractors with your local Better Business Bureau.
• Ask a contractor for references.
• Get written estimates from several firms.
• Don’t do business without a written contract.
• Get all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing.
• Agree on start and completion dates and have them written into the contract.
• Do not pay for the entire job in advance.

Car Wrap Advertising Scam - November 2013

The Bloomington Police Department has received one report of a car wrap advertisement scam.  Reports of the scam are searchable on the internet.  The victim was contacted via Facebook with a promise of a way to make extra money.  The scam states a big company is offering the opportunity to make $300 - $500 a week if you have your car wrapped in a well-known brand's logo.

The scammers who send this message also post the same offer on sites like Craigslist, Oodle, or Gumtree, create well-designed advertisements, and even contact people who submit their resumes online hunting for jobs. If you accept the offer, the scammers will then send a check for a large amount of money, according to the length of time you want to be the mobile advertiser.  The victim received a $2000 check from Alpha & Omega Financial Services out of Las Vegas, NV.

The instructions for cashing the check indicate that a certain portion of the money is to be kept as your payment and the rest is to be sent via wire transfer to the company who will supposedly wrap your vehicle. After wiring the money, you'll find out that the original check was a fake and the transaction bounced.

Text SCAM - November 2013

Several residents are receiving a text message from Prairieland FCU. The message states ‘CALL: 818 760 5448. Your immediate attention is required.”  Many times you will receive unsolicited phone calls, text, or emails in an attempt to solicit your personal information.  Do not respond. 

National Do Not call registry: www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home. Most telemarketers should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 31 days. If they do, you can file a complaint at www.donotcall.gov. You can register your home or mobile phone for free.

 

Vishing Scam - October 2013

The Bloomington Police Department has one report of an email circulating from an unknown address advising the victim's Busey Bank Card had been canceled to reactivate it call 907.782.4705. If the number is called an automated voice tells you to provide your card number to activate it.

Busey Bank has issued the following statement on their website regarding the scam.  Busey has received numerous reports from our customers of recent vishing attempts. Customers are receiving automated phone calls stating their debit card needs to be reactivated or there is a billing issue with their card. Busey will never call a customer regarding card activation or requesting card information.
These calls are scams attempting to acquire your card information. Do not respond to the call, simply hang
up. If you have any questions, please contact your nearest Busey branch.

Advertising Scam - August 2013

The Bloomington Police Department has been made aware of eight reports regarding an advertising scam targeting local businesses.  A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Jeffery L. Hassinger in connection with the incidents.  See complete article for further information. 

Victims are reporting a male is going business to business selling fake advertisements on placemats. The suspect states he is with Velocity Media Group Advertising. The suspect claims the business will be featured on a placemat for a cost a small cost. The suspect even provides an advertising contract to make the scam appear more legitimate. The victims pay the money upfront but never receive any product.

The Bloomington Police Department has alerted the McLean County Chamber of Commerce regarding the incidents. 

Rental House Scam - July 2013

The Bloomington Police Department has received one report regarding a rental house scam through Craigslist.

The victim found a house to rent through craigslist.org. The victim contacted a subject, whom they believed to be the owner of the house. The suspect stated they were out of town and the victim could view the outside of the home and look through the windows only. The suspect claimed they had the only set of keys and they were temporarily living in another state. The suspect requested the victim transfer the rent money through Western Union and then they would send the keys. The money was sent, but the keys were never received.

Tips to Avoid Scams on Craigslist

  1. Avoid wire transfers, cashier's checks, and money orders
  2. Stay local
  3. Never give out financial information
  4. Avoid deals involving shipping or escrow services
  5. Do not rent housing without seeing the interior

 

Phone Scam - July 2013

The Bloomington Police Department has received one report of a phone scam where the suspect identified themselves as the victim's grandchild.

The victim received a phone call from a suspect who was pretending to be the victim's real life grandchild. The suspect stated they were out of state and had been in a traffic accident. The suspect needed money so the other driver would not pursue charges. The suspect asked the victim not to tell their parents and to wire money to them immediately. The victim wired the money out of state and later learned their grandchild was at home in Bloomington.

*In a variation of the scam the suspect claims they are in jail (not an accident).

Tips to Avoid Phone Scams 

  1. Avoid wire transfers, cashier's checks, and money orders
  2. Verify the information

 

Hotel Guest Scam - June 2013

The Bloomington Police Department has received two reports regarding the following credit card scam at local hotels.

An unknown subject will call a guest's room directly and pose as a member of the hotel's front desk staff. After stating that they are a member of the front desk staff, the suspect will then request credit card information. The suspect claims the hotel's computer system has crashed and the credit card information on record has been lost. To help make their act more believable, the suspect will apologize profusely for the hour of the phone call and offer some sort of hotel compensation. The scam has been reported at two different hotels in Bloomington.

Tips to Avoid Hotel Scams

  1. Walk down to the front desk to verify the information
  2. When staying at a hotel do not give your financial information over the phone 

Other Common Telephone Scams include:

  • Prize Offers
  • Travel Packages
  • Investments
  • Bank Alerts
  • Working at Home
  • Legal Claims
  • Charities - To find out if a charity is legitimate and registered, check with the Attorney General's Charitable Trusts Bureau at 312-814-2595.
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