Last week, Mike Sullivan almost got hooked by a scam.
The Peru resident, who is a member of St. Augustine’s choir and the Knights of Columbus, received a realistic-looking message that said he had won $150,000 from PCH, with that implied as being Publishers Clearing House.
All he needed to do, the message said, was send $1,500 to a particular account.
Sullivan was a little suspicious, but all the questions he asked were answered, with specific numbers and accounts provided.
The lure of the payoff was too tempting, so he withdrew the money and attempted to transfer it. That’s when a big message appeared warning it was a fraud.
Sullivan wanted his story shared as a warning to others. Scammers are smart, and the traps they set look authoritative and legitimate.
But millions of people get scammed every year across the United States.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently released the list of the Top 10 consumer-fraud complaints received by his office in 2017.
Internet-related complaints — 5,153 logged last year — topped the list for the 12th year in a row. Those include scams connected with internet services and service providers, data privacy and security, child safety and consumer fraud.
Here’s the rest of the Top 10, with the number of complaints made to the Attorney General’s Office:
2. Automobile: 3,188, buying; leasing; repair; service contracts; rentals.
3. Consumer-related services: 2,463, security systems; restaurant/catering services; tech repairs.
4. Landlord/tenant disputes: 1,961, security deposit releases; tenant harassment.
5. Utilities: 1,827, wireless and residential phones; energy services and suppliers; cable and satellite.
6. Credit: 1,436, debt collection; credit-card billing; debt settlement; credit repair; credit reporting agencies; identity theft.
7. Retail sales: 1,285, any sale of goods for personal household use: food, clothing; rent-to-own.
8. Home repair/construction: 982, home-improvement services not delivered or done poorly.
9. Mail order: 850, purchases made online or from a catalog.
10. Mortgage: 799, mortgage modifications; mortgage and loan broker fraud; foreclosures.
Although they are not in the Top 10, the IRS scam and the grandparent scam are still a source of frequent complaints.
“The best weapon against fraud is an informed consumer,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
“Fraudsters will always look for new ways to line their pockets at the expense of unsuspecting consumers.
“I encourage New Yorkers to educate themselves — and to continue reporting scams to my office, so that we can continue to crack down on scammers seeking to take advantage of New York consumers.”
If you are concerned that someone is trying to rip you off, trust your instincts and call 1-800-771-7755.
Publishers Clearing House knows that unethical people are out there trying to defraud people like Mike Sullivan.
Its website defines a scam as “a situation where you were contacted by someone claiming to represent Publishers Clearing House, or claiming to be a PCH employee and were asked to send or wire money, send a pre-paid gift card or a Green Dot MoneyPak card, or cash a check and send a portion back to them as payment for any reason to claim a Sweepstakes prize.”
That is not how the company operates. But it is exactly how the scammers do.