Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Stopping Scams

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Scams and fraud cost Vermonters hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Scammers use every tool available to steal money and information from consumers. Since most scams originate overseas and use sophisticated technology, we can’t stop them with traditional law enforcement means alone.

To stop the scams, we need to work together to protect Vermonters from losses to scams and fraud. Here’s how:

Get informed

Knowledge is power. Sign up to receive instant alerts by text, voice or e-mail message from the Attorney General about new scams as they hit Vermont. Find information on common scams on this website, our Facebook page, or the FTC Scam Alerts site. Stay informed to protect yourself and others!

Spread the word

Share what you know with others so they can protect themselves from loss. Whether it’s around the dinner table, out with friends, visiting with relatives or chatting with co-workers, make sure those around you stay informed and aware!

Stop the scam

As a result of a recent settlement, some consumers who lost money to scams after sending funds through Western Union before January 2017 may be eligible for restitution.  File a claim here

If you or someone you know are being targeted by scammers, take action to prevent loss. There are a few simple steps you can take:

  • Hang up! Scammers will try to keep you on the phone. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to hang up the phone. Don’t try to talk with them, just end the call. If the conversation is online or by text/e-mail, stop responding, or block the sender.
  • Call us! Whether you need help for yourself or someone else, we want to talk with you. If it is outside of our normal business hours, you can send us an e-mail or leave a voice message. If you need immediate assistance, contact your local law enforcement agency or call 2-1-1 for information and referrals to other helping agencies.
  • Stop payment! If money has been sent (by wire transfer, mail, gift card, or any other means), contact the bank or institution you sent it through right away to stop the money before it is picked up. Usually the funds are picked up quickly by scammers, but it’s worth trying!

Want to learn more? Keep reading to get informed about common scams affecting Vermonters.

Most common scams:

These are the most common scams reported to our office:

IRS Debt Collection

A scam telephone call saying you owe “back taxes” or outstanding payments due to the government, typically from callers claiming to be “Internal Revenue Service”, “IRS”, and “US Treasury and Legal Affairs.” Don’t respond to these callers. If you think you may actually owe back taxes, hang up and contact the IRS directly at 1 (800) 829-1040.

Computer Tech Support

Caller or pop-up message on computer which claims to be from Microsoft/Windows or other tech company claiming there is a virus or other serious problem with your computer. They will try to persuade you to give remote access to your computer. Never allow remote access to your computer or click links in a strange e-mail or pop-up message! Turn off your computer! Do not pay an unknown entity!

Phishing

Attempts to collect personal and sensitive information, which is typically used to steal someone’s identity. In the most common phishing scams, the perpetrator claims to be calling from a person’s bank and requires account information to re-activate their account. Never give account information to unknown callers! Don’t respond to emails that request this information!

Debt Collection

Calls from fake debt collectors making threats, including lawsuit, wage garnishment, and arrest. Most attempt to collect nonexistent debts and even make claims that utilities will be disconnected if payment is not made immediately. Never pay a harassing collector over the phone; demand proof of the debt in writing and verify the debt with the original creditor! If you are concerned about possible disconnection, hang up and contact the vendor directly!

Business-Targeted Scams

Vermont businesses were also on the receiving end of scams, including utility disconnection threats, unsolicited/fake invoices, fake orders of goods or services, imposters of business personnel, and IRS debt collection scams. The imposter of business personnel scam was particularly concerning as the businesses are contacted by someone that claims to be their CEO, or other internal business representative, which can be easily fabricated. Once connected, the imposter CEO or other employee requests a large bank wire transfer, which is typically irretrievable. It is important that businesses establish internal processes to ensure payments are being sent to valid sources!

Unclaimed Funds- Grants, Rebates and Settlements

Calls, mailings and e-mail messages claiming that you are eligible for a government grant, and unclaimed rebate or settlement, or other unclaimed funds. No legitimate grant will require you to pay a fee for processing, and you can find out if there are unclaimed funds in your name by contacting the Vermont Treasurer’s Office.

Phony Prizes, Lotteries and Sweepstakes

Claims that recipient will obtain funds if they pay an upfront fee, typically for registration or taxes. These scams usually start with a phone call or mailing, claiming that you won money or a prize, but have to make a payment in order to receive it. Sometimes realistic-looking fake checks are used to entice the victims and claim to cover a portion of the fees. The check bounces and no “winnings” are ever dispersed. Never pay upfront to receive winnings! If you won something, they should pay you, not the other way around!

Medical Products and Supplies, Insurance and Prescription Scams

Callers claim to be with Medicare or Medicaid, seeking personal information or claiming they are the authorized provider of medical supplies, prescriptions or other services. Verify any such call with your insurance provider separately, or with your physician. Never give out your personal information to a caller!

Grandparent and Other Impostor Scams

Scammers claiming to be a grandchild, friend/relative or romantic interest contact consumer, reportedly in distress and needing money to be wired or transmitted with a reloadable card, gift card (like iTunes), PayPal account payment, cash or check/money order. Never wire or otherwise send funds unless you can verify the emergency!

Craigslist/Online Listings Scams

These on-line scams involve fake rental listings and requests to cash a fake check and send money to a shipper/agent in order to complete an online transaction. Be cautions when dealing online. Never give out personal information before seeing a rental listing in person. Be suspicious when someone wants to pay you more for something than what it is worth; make arrangements to pay in cash and in person whenever possible!