THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton

Frauds and Scams

Every day, Texans lose money to scams and frauds. It happens in more ways than you can imagine. Decent, intelligent people are duped out of their life savings by smooth-talking, utterly unscrupulous crooks. These are people who will look you in the eye and lie.

You have been warned about mail fraud, telephone fraud, internet fraud and door-to-door fraud. But how will you know it when you see it? Whether they reach you by mail, by phone, by email or by talking to you in person, they will give themselves away if you know what to look for. No matter what the bait they offer you, underneath it is a hook. Don't get hooked by consumer fraud!

FIVE HOOKS: Tell-Tale Signs of a Scam

THEY contacted YOU. Think about it. If you look up a business and call to make an order, you know who is on the other end of the deal. With a con artist, all you know is who that person says he or she is. You are already at a huge disadvantage.

They dangle BAIT in front of you. It is almost always a large sum of money, like a prize or an easy loan, or a large income. It sounds so easy! But we all know that people don't give away large sums of money so easily, or pay large incomes for nothing. Only in daydreams.

They want your PERSONAL INFORMATION. Anytime someone tries to get your bank account number, Social Security Number, or other sensitive information, you should automatically be on red alert. Don't do it.

First, YOU have to pay THEM. Don't be blinded by the promise of a large sum of money in the future. If they are asking you to give them money first, back off. It is illegal for someone to require up-front payment before funding a loan or paying out a sweepstakes prize. And real employers don't generally ask new hires to shell out money.

You have to WIRE or AIRBORNE money instead of MAILING it. This is your last warning: if you are on the brink of wiring somebody money in order to get a prize or a loan, an inheritance or any other large sum of money, STOP! It's a scam, and they are trying to avoid the stiff penalties for mail fraud. You are about to be robbed.

By mail, by phone or face to face, con artists dangle baited hooks in front of honest people every day of the week. It usually begins with an unsolicited contact from a company, individual or organization you never heard of. You do not know who the caller really is. Real lotteries don't call you to say you've won. You don't get grants without applying for them. You don't get easy loans if you have bad credit. Real money is hard to get. It doesn't just come to you. But there are people who would like to take whatever money you have to lose. Don't get hooked!

How a Con Artist Scams You

Do you ever wonder, "How on earth did they fall for that?" Sad to say, many sensible, intelligent people find themselves asking, "Why did I do it?"

Learn how you can avoid falling for a con artist's schemes by reading, The Five Tricks of a Con Artist.

What to Do if You've Been Scammed

If you have been scammed, it's important you know how to properly report the scams and the steps to take to prevent being scammed again. Find valuable tips about both on our page, What to Do if You've been Scammed.

If Your Family Member Is a Victim

We are often contacted by frantic family members of victims of fraud, who are unable to convince the victim that the scam is not real. Phony lotteries and sweepstakes can be very persuasive to some people. Some people are particularly vulnerable to scams. Seniors may be lonely, trusting, and confused.

If you are having a hard time convincing someone to stop sending money to a scam artist, you can call this office at (800) 252-8011 for assistance. You may also wish to approach your family member's bank, where staff may be willing to alert you of withdrawals. In addition, law enforcement officers may be willing to visit the victim; the uniform can be persuasive. A law-abiding victim can sometimes be swayed by the knowledge that it is illegal to receive the proceeds of a foreign lottery.

Victims are often ashamed of having been duped. It can help them to understand that the con artists who perpetrate the scams are highly skilled and sophisticated. Intelligent, educated people can be fooled.

When the Business Can't Be Found

This problem is as old as the expression "Fly by Night," which describes the crook who sells you a raw deal and leaves town before you realize you've been had. Today, thanks to the Internet, the disappearing business is more common than ever.

Every single day, consumers contact the Office of the Attorney General saying, "They don't answer their phone, return my messages, or respond to my emails. They said they would give me a refund if I changed my mind, but I can't get hold of them." Or, "They said I had 10 days to cancel, but I have called and emailed every day for two weeks without being able to reach them!"

Businesses in Texas are required to register with the Secretary of State or the local county clerk's office. You can contact the SOS to find out the name of the registered agent for the business. Unfortunately, crooks tend not to bother reporting themselves to the proper authorities. However, if you have lost money to a business that you can no longer reach, you can try to find contact information from the Secretary of State, or the county clerk where the business is located.

But don't wait for this to happen. Instead, before you do business, make sure the company is real. It should have a real address and real people registered to do business in this state or another state or country that registers real businesses. Seek independent confirmation that the business is what it claims to be.

Our best defense is education. Even if you have been scammed already, it's not too late to arm yourself against its happening again. When people know how to spot a scam, they can stop short before they lose their money. We want you to keep your hard earned money.