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Scammers are once again using consumers' fear of possible criminal prosecution to scam them out of money.
One of the latest versions of this scam is being called the "gas station scam." According to Denver's KUSA-TV, it starts with a phone call from someone claiming to be the manager of "your" gas station, who goes on to tell you that on your last visit to the station, your credit card was declined for insufficient funds.
How the Scam Works
The caller then demands your credit card information, warning that failing to provide it will lead to criminal theft charges, KUSA-TV reports. The scammers may back up their claims by providing the phone number for the actual gas station for consumers to call. When consumers call the number, the gas station employees, of course, have no idea what's going on.
However, this is all part of the scammer's plan. When the scammers call the consumer back, the scammer explains that he actually works for the credit card company, not the gas station, and repeats the demand for your credit card information. The consumer, confused and fearing police involvement, eventually caves, providing the scammer the information he needs to fraudulently charge the consumer's credit card.
Fear-Based Phone Scams
Phone scams which use the fear of criminal prosecution are nothing new. Earlier this month, the IRS warned of a phone scam in which callers, claiming to be IRS agents, demanded victims purchase pre-paid debit cards and provide the account information or face arrest or even deportation.
In another scam making the rounds, criminals claim to be police officers and demand payment for a red-light violation caught by a red light camera. In both the IRS and red light phone scams, authorities remind consumers that IRS agents or police will never attempt to collect money over the phone.
What to Do If You Fall Victim
Consumers who believe they have been the victim of a scam are encouraged to notify the Federal Trade Commission by calling (877) FTC-HELP or by filing a complaint using the FTC's online complaint assistant.