Crime Watch

CrimeWatch: Four scams you can avoid


Special to The Miami Herald

Several of you this past week emailed me about different scams that you were approached with but did not fall for. But for those of you that may not know about these scams, I am going to once again share with you since they are going around again.

•  Online auction and sales scams: The victim is contacted via email by a subject expressing interest in an item that the victim has posted for sale on or a similar on-line sales/auction site. The supposed buyer claims to live outside the area or to be traveling abroad. The buyer agrees to have a friend mail the victim a check for the purchase of the item and arrange for shipment of the item. The victim typically receives a check that’s face value far exceeds the purchase price, and is asked to return the “accidental” overage via wire transfer. The check is later discovered to be stolen/forged/counterfeit and the buyer never, in fact, arranges for shipment of the item.

•  Time-share scams: The victim is contacted via telephone by a person claiming to be a real estate broker. The supposed broker claims to represent an out-of-state or international buyer who is interested in purchasing the victim’s time-share. Typically, the broker offers a purchase price that far exceeds the market value of the time-share. Upon agreeing to the price, the victim is directed to remit a fee (property taxes, transfer fees, filing fees, etc.) via wire transfer in advance of the sale. Once the victim remits the payment, the suspect ceases all communication and the sale is never consummated.

• Telemarketer scams: The victim is contacted via telephone by a person claiming to be an employee of the victim’s bank or credit-card company. The victim is told that fraud has been detected on the account and the bank needs to verify the victim’s true personal information. In a variation of this scam, the victim is contacted by a person claiming to be employed by the bank or credit-card company, with an offer of a better interest rate or mortgage refinancing. In either case, the victim is directed to confirm his or her account number, name, date of birth, social security number, mother’s maiden name, and other personal information typically used by financial institutions.

• Bank examiner scams: The victim is contacted via telephone by someone claiming to be a police investigator or bank official. The victim is asked to help with an internal bank investigation intended to expose a crooked teller, who is dispensing fake currency or otherwise defrauding customers. The victim is asked to go to a local bank branch and make a large cash withdrawal at a specific time. After making the withdrawal and exiting the bank, the victim is met outside by the supposed investigator who thanks the victim, takes the withdrawn currency, and promises to credit the victim’s account. The investigator is later discovered not to be a police officer or bank employee.

Folks, “scams” only work if we allow them to work. So start saying “no” and start being aware of these crooks out in our community.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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