Criminals deploy new scams to steal your money - KCTV5

Criminals deploy new scams to steal your money

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A new list shows the latest hot scams ripping off people right in the metro and they're different than the ones people have heard about before.

The latest numbers from the Federal Trade Commission estimate in 2012 scammers ripped Americans off for $1.4 billion.

It is big business, where others are their payday.

"We were like, 'Oh my gosh! What do we do?'" Brett Huskamp said.

It was a moment Huskamp, a restaurant co-owner in Atchison, would like to forget.

"It was a prime time to catch you off guard," he said.

It was Valentine's Day, a big day for his business. That was when a scammer called to make a quick buck.

"They needed the money that day, that moment or they were shutting us off," Huskamp said.

The caller claimed the restaurant missed an electric bill, something Huskamp questioned. But fearing no power would mean no business, Huskamp almost paid up.

"We had the cash in hand. We were that close to giving him our money," Huskamp said.

Down the street at Lopez de Mexico, restaurant owner Ann Pruett said the caller was smooth, but she grew suspicious when the man wanted payment only with a Green Dot MoneyPak card, a type of cash-loaded debit card.

"They had everything. I thought if it was a scam, they wouldn't have, but they did," Pruett said.  "I finally went, 'ahh!' I can't believe I almost bought into this."

Both were almost victims of what experts call the "Green Dot" card scam.

"Anyone can be scammed ... anyone," said Aaron Reese is with the Better Business Bureau.

The group just released their top scams of 2013. Click here to read more.

Victims were promised free medical alert systems. Bank accounts were needed for the monitoring fee, but nothing ever came in the mail.

Also, crooks targeted sellers on online auction sites like eBay with bogus payment emails.

And topping the list were Affordable Care Act scams where victims gave away personal information thinking they would get new insurance or Medicare cards.

"Anything that is new, that is complicated, that affects a lot of people ... scammers are going to take advantage of that," Reese said.

But KCTV5 investigative reporter Eric Chaloux discovered Kansas City is seeing another scheme involving fake vacation time share companies, where people pay but never get their getaway.

"We've talked to people that have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on them," Reese said.

Meanwhile, for Huskamp, he hopes others will learn from his story and never feel pressured to pay over the phone.

"To think you feel victim to something like this, but the same time, you have to let people know this happened," Huskamp said.

Consumer experts say if people doubt the identity of caller they should ask for their phone number to call them back.

It is easy to spoof a number on caller ID, but getting their number could help determine if they're legit.

The Better Business Bureau found that scam artists often target men in their mid-50s.

"It has to do with the psychology of scamming someone. It's easier to scam someone if he knows enough to follow along with the glimmering financial sales pitch. If the scammer manages to hit all, or most, of the right notes - faking credibility, dangling wealth in front of the potential victim, makes the victim feel like they're being done a favor, making the person believe that other smart people have done it and making it seem like the opportunity is only available for a limited time - it really snags that middle-aged male group quite effectively," Reese said.

For more information, contact the Better Business Bureau of Kansas City at 816-421-7800 or the Johnson County District Attorney fraud hotline at 913-715-300.

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