Scams & Confidence Schemes (Cons)    Last updated: 12/07/2014


Warning! - Scamers Posing as Pedernales Electric Representatives

The following alert was posted on The Mountain Neighborhood Google Group.
Thanks to our friends in The Mountain Neighborhood for this alert.

Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2014 08:33:12
Subject: [mountain] Scamers posing as Pedernales Electric

From the Pedernales Electric Cooperative:

Pedernales Electric Cooperative members have been targeted by telephone in a scam in which a person falsely posing as a PEC employee threatened to disconnect service if an immediate payment was not made.

PEC would like to provide the following reminders to help members protect themselves:

  • PEC uses an automated system to make recorded courtesy calls to members regarding their accounts. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a PEC employee, verify the call by contacting PEC toll-free at 1-888-554-4732, the phone number printed on your bill. Representatives are available regular business days Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • PEC submits aged delinquent balances to MPB Credit Bureau, which contacts PEC members by phone to collect payment. PEC attempts to notify members by mail before a balance is turned over, and once that occurs, payment must be made directly to MPB. Verify calls from MPB by calling the collection bureau directly at 1-800-550-7902.
  • PEC employees work in the field to collect payments, but they will never accept cash. All PEC employees carry photo identification badges, and many travel in company vehicles and wear PEC uniform shirts. If you are approached by someone claiming to work for PEC, ask to see identification or call the Cooperativeís toll-free number to verify their identity.
  • To check an account balance or make payment, PEC members can call the Co-op toll-free at 1-888-554-4732 or log in online securely at Payments by check, debit card, Visa or MasterCard are accepted. There is no additional charge for these services. Members can also mail payment or stop by any of the Co-opís office locations.
  • Members can check their accounts by logging in online at, emailing the Cooperative through the Contact Us link on that website or by calling PEC at the toll-free number printed on your bill.

    Anyone who has information about this scam or thinks they have been a victim should contact their local law enforcement agency or contact the Attorney Generalís Consumer Protection Division
    More information about PEC payment options is available at



    Warning:   2010 Census Cautions from the Better Business Bureau

    Be Cautious About Giving Info to Census Workers
    by Susan Johnson - August 2009

    With the U.S. Census process beginning, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft. The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is underway as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country.

    Eventually, more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race, and other relevant data.

    The big question is - how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:

    • If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should never invite anyone you don't know into your home.
    • Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census.

    While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, the Census Bureau will not ask for Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.

    Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail, or in person at home. However, the Census Bureau will not contact you by Email, so be on the lookout for Email scams impersonating the Census. Never click on a link or open any attachments in an Email that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.

    For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud, visit



    Warning! - Protecting Seniors from Fraud   The following alert was sent by Michelle Menchaca, of the Austin Police Department, who relayed this message from the Texas Attorney General's Office.

    Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 7:31 AM
    Subject: Austin Police Department - Law Enforcement Update: Protecting Texas Seniors From Fraud

    Law Enforcement Update
    Protecting Texas Seniors From Fraud

    May is Older Americans Month, so this is a good time to reflect upon the greatest generation and redouble our efforts to protect elderly Texans. The Office of the Attorney General is proud to work with law enforcement to achieve this goal.

    Con artists and criminals often target older Texans because seniors are more likely to have retirement savings, their own homes and great credit. Scam artists also know older Texans may be less likely to report fraud. In fact, some estimates indicate that only one in 25 cases of financial fraud against senior citizens is reported.

    The Office of the Attorney General receives complaints from seniors about a wide array of scams.
    Here are a few examples:

    "Grandparent" scam. The scam begins with a telephone caller who claims to be a grandchild in trouble and in urgent need of money. Often, the caller claims to be traveling in Canada. The "grandchild" also requests secrecy, hoping to increase the odds that the fraud will be successful. If all goes according to the con artist's plan, the victim wires money to the "grandchild." By the time the worried grandparent realizes the scam, the money is long gone and most likely not recoverable.

    Home repair and door-to-door scams. In one ploy, a "repairman" approaches a home owner, often after a bad storm, and insists that the home needs repairs. Once the repairman gets a check, he disappears without making or finishing repairs. Other times, a "contractor" will approach a senior citizen, saying he has extra materials from a job and will perform a service, like sealing a driveway, for less than the typical cost. The work, if done at all, is usually substandard. In a variation of these scams, the con artist uses the construction ruse to gain entry into the victim's home where he steals valuables from the home while the owner is distracted.

    Texans should always be suspicious of unsolicited contractors who approach their homes, and they should always be wary of people they do not know. Legitimate workers - such as utility company representatives or professional repairmen - will not be offended if a homeowner asks for proof of identification.

    Foreign lottery / sweepstakes scams. In this scam, which often originates in Canada, the operators claim that potential victims have won another country's lottery. The scam artists often claim they need the victim's bank account information in order to wire the lottery proceeds. Then, armed with the victim's account number, the thief drains the bank account. In other cases, the scammer claims the victim must pay "taxes and processing fees" in advance to receive their winnings. Sometimes the criminals even send a convincing counterfeit check in an attempt to lend legitimacy to the scam. The counterfeit check is denied by the victim's bank, but often after the victim has sent the "taxes and processing fees." Another variation solicits its victims to buy entries into a foreign lottery. Of course, no lottery tickets are really purchased, and the con artists pocket the victim's money. Anyone with friends or relatives who think they won a foreign lottery should keep this in mind: It is illegal to participate in another country's lottery.

    "Miracle" health scams. As a population, older citizens typically suffer from greater health problems - such as cancer or arthritis - than younger segments of society. Unfortunately, some seniors can be increasingly vulnerable to unscrupulous sellers preying on seniors' health and wellness fears to sell worthless healthcare products that they falsely claim can cure chronic or terminal diseases. Senior citizens seeking medical treatment or a cure for ailments should think twice before spending their money on products and treatments that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Anyone who purchases unapproved products may be wasting their savings or worse, exposing themselves to health risks. Texans should always consult a healthcare professional about their health problems and should never rely solely on a salesman's advice about a product.

    Investor "free lunch" scams. Senior citizens should also be wary of "free lunch" investment seminars. Potential investors are often invited to free seminars that promise to educate them on money strategies or management. Promoters provide a fancy meal in hopes of receiving seniors' retirement savings to invest. These luncheon investment seminars usually are more about recruiting new clients or selling investment products than investor education. Many legitimate investment advisors use this technique to meet and recruit new clients, which is perfectly ethical. However, scam artists and identity thieves also use these events to steal attendees' personal information. Other salesmen, such as those selling timeshares or vacation packages, may also use these seminars to sell their products. Seniors should always remember that a good show doesn't always offer a good deal. Texans should never make an on-the-spot decision after attending a seminar. It is important to conduct independent research about the sales product before making a purchase.

    Awareness and vigilance are the keys to avoiding scams. By working together to raise awareness, law enforcement agencies can help Texas seniors protect their finances, their identities and, most importantly, their dignity.


    Warning! - Economic Stimulus Package Scam.   The following alert was sent by Michelle Menchaca, of the Austin Police Department, who relayed this message from the Texas Attorney General's Office.

    Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2008
    Subject: Consumer Alert: Scammers Taking Advantage Of New Federal Economic Stimulus Package

    Texans should be aware of a scam that has emerged in connection with the proposed federal economic stimulus package. Under recently passed legislation, the IRS will mail tax rebate checks to eligible Texans over the next few months.

    Several Texans recently filed complaints with the Office of the Attorney General after receiving unsolicited e-mails and telephone calls from purported IRS agents claiming that the taxpayers are eligible for "Bush refunds." The scammers demand taxpayers' Social Security and bank account numbers, claiming the IRS will use the information to directly deposit "rebate checks" into the taxpayers' accounts.

    This is outright identity theft fraud. The IRS does not call or e-mail taxpayers unexpectedly to demand personal information for direct deposits. Taxpayers solicited in this manner should just hang up or delete the e-mail.

    Texans who have received these bogus solicitations can file a complaint with the IRS at or by calling (800) 829-1040. Consumers also can report such calls to the office of the Attorney General of Texas.


    Warning! - Beware of Possible Solicitor Scam.   The following Email Message is from Paulette Hamilton, who lives on Skye Cove in The Mountain neighborhood.

    From: Paulette Hamilton
    Sent: Thursday, December 07, 2006 8:00 AM
    Subject: Solicitor

    Hello to everyone!
        I am writing here to share a little about a solicitor I had at my door yesterday evening. About 6:30 or so the doorbell rang, I answered it and it was a young man (approx 6'1" or 6'2", chipped tooth or two, and slender about 145 lbs or so). He went on to say his name is _____ Hastings and that he is ______ and Nancy Hastings son. I live on Skye Cove, immediately, red flags hit, because I am pretty familiar with families on that street. Then he went on to say that he was playing baseball for UT, and I said "oh really" (another red flag). He said that they were playing baseball in Tokyo after the new year and the coach wants them to raise money for the trip. I again asked, "So you are playing with UT." Oh yes ma'm, and again repeated that he was the son of _____ and lived on Skye Cove. About that time, he pulled out a plastic book of sorts and wanted to sell me magazines or something and I cut him off, and said "It was a bad time, we were in the middle of dinner" and he asked if he could come back and I said again you are with UT and at this point he said yes, I'm on the "CLUB" team and hope to be on the Team next year.
        At this point, I told him that we fully support UT and that my husband is a former athlete who played for UT (at this point he started stuttering, like oh, oh, really.) I said that if they were in need of fundraising for this, it would have to be in writing. He said oh yes, and left. Well, the evening went on and I just didn't feel right. I made a few calls to my friends on Skye Cove to confirm this family on that street, and NO family by this name lives on Skye Cove. I then made a phone call to 311 and spoke with a very nice officer who shared this:
        He said this is a scam going on right now and for the last three (3) weeks we have been getting calls just like this. He said they go thru one neighborhood and see how much money they can get and move to the next one. He said if this man or someone else comes to the door claiming to be playing for UT to call 911 and an officer would come out and try to track him down and question who they are and why they are claiming to be UT. I called 311 probably a hour and half after the deal and at that point it was to hard to know where they were by that time.
        With it being the holidays, who knows they may be scanning to check out homes and valuables. Again, the officer said call 911 right away.
        SO, share this with your neighbors and friends and make them aware of this going on.
    Paulette Hamilton


    Warning! - Jury Duty Scam.   Most of us take those summonses for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty that a new and ominous kind of scam has surfaced.   Fall for it and your identity could be stolen, according to a report on CBS News.
         In this con, someone calls pretending to be a court official who threateningly says a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you didn't show up for jury duty.  The caller claims to be a jury coordinator.
        If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your social security number and date of birth so he can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant.  Sometimes they even ask for credit card numbers.  Give out any of this information and bingo, your identity just got stolen.
        The scam has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma, Illinois, and Colorado.  This scam is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into giving them personal information by pretending they are with the court system.
        The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their websites, warning consumers about the fraud.

    How to Avoid Falling Victim to 'Jury Duty' Scams:

    • Court workers will not telephone to say you've missed jury duty or that they are assembling juries and need to pre-screen those who might be selected to serve on them, so dismiss as fraudulent phone calls of this nature.  About the only time you would hear by telephone (rather than by mail) about anything having to do with jury service would be after you have mailed back your completed questionnaire, and even then only rarely.
    • Do not give out bank account, social security, or credit card numbers over the phone if you didn't initiate the call, whether it be someone trying to sell you something or someone who claims to be from a bank or government department.  If such callers insist upon 'verifying' such information with you, have them read the data to you from their notes, with you saying yea or nay to it rather than the other way around.
    • Examine your credit card and bank account statements every month, keeping an eye peeled for unauthorized charges.  Immediately challenge items you did not approve.


    Warning! - Internet Scams (Released: February 17, 2006).   The Austin Police Department Financial Crimes Unit wants the public to be aware of counterfeit money orders and/or cashiers checks that are being sent to U.S. residents to deposit in their bank accounts. Individuals are contacted via the internet by subjects from other countries asking for financial assistance.
        This scam is not new and continues to make national headlines. There are several variations of the scam, but the most common is for subjects outside the U.S. to make contact with an individual through an internet dating and/or chat site. The subject communicates for a period of time until they feel comfortable asking for financial assistance from the individual. The subject states that they have received either cashiers checks or money orders from a U.S. resident for work done and they are unable to cash the payment vouchers in their country.
        The subject will offer a portion of the funds to the individual provided they will cash the cashiers checks or money orders and then wire the money to them. Once an agreement is reached, the subject will send several money orders and/or cashiers checks. Each one is usually under $1,000 since this is the maximum amount for a U.S. postal money order. The individual takes the cashiers checks and/or money orders to the bank and since they appear to be genuine, the funds are placed in the individual's personal bank account within two or three days. Thinking that the cashiers checks and money orders are genuine, money is then wired to the name and address provided by the subject. Within the next several weeks, the funding documents are processed and then returned to the bank because it has been determined they are counterfeit. The bank contacts the individual to let them know the funding documents are counterfeit and the monies will be removed from their bank account.
        The APD Financial Crimes Unit receives 20-30 reports of this type of scam each month. Persons receiving this type of document should shred it immediately and discontinue communications with the sender.
        Contact: Public Information Office, (512) 974-5017