The old "one-two" -- how tag team crooks aim to sucker punch you: Internet Scambusters #502
Tag team tricks are not just confined to the wrestling ring. Scammers often use partners to try to convince victims they're genuine.
But you can avoid their well-aimed sucker punch by just applying one simple rule.
In this week's issue, we outline some of the most common tag team tricks and the actions you can take to avoid falling victim.
Let's get started...
These Tag Team Acts Are Just a Scam
In a wrestling ring, a tag team can make for some entertaining sport -- at least in some people's eyes -- but in the world of scams it has become a cunning way of conning victims.
Many scams involve an accomplice but a tag team mostly refers to con tricks in which the crooks pretend not to know each other. And in some instances, the term can even refer to one individual pretending to be two different people.
The aim is usually the same -- to generate credibility for the scam by seeming to offer independent confirmation that it's genuine. And our rule for dealing with it is one we always stress -- never believe people are who they say they claim to be.
So, let's take a look at some of the most common tag team scams.
The Pet Finder Tag Team
This is a simple but clever trick that targets people who have advertised a lost pet.
The first caller says they think they've spotted the animal and asks you to describe it; then they say they were mistaken.
The second caller, armed with information you gave to the first crook, gives you a detailed description that seems to confirm they've found your pet.
Then they use that to try to get money out of you. For instance, they may claim they're some distance away and need you to pay for travel or transportation, ask you to send a reward or just try to bully you into paying a ransom.
In most cases, you'll likely be asked to wire the money though, in some cases, a scammer may turn up on your doorstep, describe the animal and claim they know where it is, and ask for cash to go get it.
Sometimes, this scam is used for other lost items -- like jewelry and wallets. The format and the outcome is the same.
Action: Don't describe a lost pet or item to someone over the phone. Ask them to do the describing.
Or, hold something important back -- like the color of the collar -- and specifically ask the caller for that information.
The Shill Player or Passerby
In this tag team scam, one or more accomplices pretend to be innocent people who win money or stumble across you and the other crook and confirm the great deal you are being offered.
It can take several formats:
* Playing street card games like "three card monte" in which you have to keep track of a named card as it's moved around.
The accomplice seems to be repeatedly winning -- or even missing the correct card when you've managed to visually track it.
We've written about this before, most recently in our issue covering rest stop scams, Don't Get Hijacked by These Rest Area Scams.
Action: Don't get drawn into street card games. Even in a casino, though, never make a judgment on the basis of someone else's winning.
Being offered jewelry, cash or even a shopping bargain, usually on the street or in a parking lot.
For example, the first scammer tells you they desperately need to sell a bogus bullion bar or precious stone, and the second scammer who is just "passing by" stops and buys one and then somehow authenticates it.
Tag team scammers may also sell what seem to be electronic products out of the back of a van. The accomplice "buys" one first and opens the packaging, thus confirming it's genuine.
But victims who buy one -- the items are usually tightly sealed -- later discover their box is loaded with rubbish or inferior products.
Action: Don't buy anything from people you encounter in these sorts of locations, no matter how convincing their offer.
The bogus contractor
In this scam, the first crook knocks at your front door, perhaps claims to be a new neighbor, and says they spotted a problem on your roof.
As they try to point it out to you, the tag team accomplice "passes by" and somehow gets drawn into the conversation.
He says he just happens to be a contractor, confirms the "problem" and offers to do the repair for you at a bargain price.
He asks for part of the payment, usually a couple hundred dollars, up front and says you can pay him the rest when the job's done.
He goes away to get his ladders -- but you never see him again. And, of course, there's nothing wrong with your roof.
Action: Always get expert opinion from a registered, reputable contractor before having work done. Check their credentials independently.
Read more about contractor scams in these earlier Scambusters issues:
The Official Confirmation Tag Team Scam
Of course, you'd never fall for a lottery or other "big-win" scam would you?
How about if someone from the local police department or other "official" source calls to confirm it's genuine?
We hope you wouldn't be taken in by that either -- but scores of people are.
Victims receive the usual bogus email announcing their winnings. Perhaps it might contain a code number.
The announcement may even come by phone. But whatever the source, victims are told that because of recent security concerns, they will receive a confirmation call or message from the police, a well-known "genuine" competition organizer (like Publishers' Clearing House), or even the IRS.
The call comes in, maybe even spoofing the number of the supposed organization on your caller ID, requests the code and confirms the "win."
Then, of course, they ask for money for taxes or processing fees before they can release your prize.
Action: As we've said -- don't believe anyone is who they say they are without absolute proof. And, of course, you're unlikely to win a competition you didn't enter.
See also our earlier lottery scam issues:
And look out for another upcoming Scambusters issue on the latest lottery tricks.
Sadly, that's not the end of the tag team scam story. There are lots more of these evil tricks, like bogus relatives who confirm the person you're "dating" online is genuine, or "friends" who confirm the panhandler who accosted you genuinely needs your money to get home.
There's a tag team scam called the "badger game" which involves setting victims up in a compromising situation with someone they just met, then being "discovered" by a supposedly outraged partner who demands a pay-off.
You can even encounter crooked tag team partnerships in many online games like Vortex Wars and RuneScape.
So watch out for those tricksters who come in pairs! Tag team players aren't just in the wrestling ring.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!