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Election-themed scam warning from Better Business Bureau

Electricity savings, free cruises offered as bait to gullible scam victims
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Election season is moving into high gear and so are election-related scams, according to the Better Business Bureau. While the Placer County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t been working on any fraud cases involving election-themed scams, they are warning residents to be on their guard. The northeastern California Better Business Bureau office in Western Sacramento issued an alert this past week on election scams the office has fielded calls on or has learned of through media reports in other areas of the U.S. The bureau can provide assistance in protecting or retrieving identification after an I.D. theft related to bogus telephone solicitations or other scams, said Gary Almond, president of the regional Better Business Bureau office. With the recent heat wave, the Better Business Bureau received a report from Stockton that consumers had been contacted with claims that “President (Barack) Obama is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills.” Under that ruse, scammers claim they need a person’s Social Security and bank routing numbers to arrange the payments. “In return, customers are given a phony bank routing number that will supposedly pay their utility bills,” Almond said. “In reality, there is no money, and customers believe they have paid their bills when in fact they have not.” Worse, they have given away everything needed for identity fraud, he said. Placer County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Dena Erwin said detectives had no reports of that type of scam. “However, we want to remind citizens to be wary of any calls they receive asking for personal information,” Erwin said. “They should treat any inquiry with extreme caution and never give out credit card numbers or any other financial information over the phone.” Almond said one scam that has been reported several times in Florida involves a voting survey and the promise of a free cruise. “The public opinion poll scam typically involves an offer of a ‘free cruise’ in exchange for participating in a telephone survey,” Almond said. “At the end of the call, consumers are asked for a debit or credit card number to cover ‘port fees’ or ‘taxes.’” People who hesitate or ask if they can call back in order to verify the caller’s identity are subject to high-pressure tactics, such as being told that the offer “is only good right now,” and that if they hang up they will be disqualified, Almond said. Almond said people who think they’ve been victimized by a phone scam can contact the Better Business Bureau office at (916) 443-6843, after contacting local law-enforcement to report the crime. They can also check their credit report online at annualcreditreport.com, he said.