New Twist to Old Money-Wire Transfer Scam
Targets Local Auto Repair Companies.
BBBs across the country have been receiving complaints pertaining to scam artists abusing Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) to defraud U.S. businesses and consumers. Under Title IV of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), all telephone companies must provide free TRS for individuals with hearing impairments or speech impairments to place and receive telephone calls.
A TRS communications assistant serves as a link for the call, relaying the text of the calling party in voice to the called party, and converting to text what the called party voices back to the calling party.
At first, TRS was utilized by the traditional text telephones. However, with the advent of the personal computer and the Internet, TRS users are now able to utilize the Internet to complete an Internet Protocol (IP) Relay.
By using the IP-Relay, anyone throughout the world who has a computer and Internet access can connect to a relay operator (a communications assistant) and place a free telephone call. Scammers are currently using TRS to exploit the auto repair industry. It starts with a call from a “consumer” using TRS to request services for their vehicle. The scammer claims that their vehicle is out-of-state, but wants it repaired locally.
Several auto repair shops in Nebraska have been scammed and others have reported they’ve gotten similar relay calls. A Lincoln, NE company recently received a relay call requesting they tow a truck from Michigan to their repair shop. The “consumer” gave the company a credit card number and the repair shop was asked to charge $2,000 to this card. Then, the caller instructed them to wire $1,500 to Wade Miller Wrecker in Swartz Creek, MI., and to keep $500 as a deposit on the work that would be performed on the truck.
After the money was paid, the business was notified that it was a stolen credit card and the charges would be reversed on the shop’s merchant account. Another local company also lost thousands of dollars in this same scam.
A BBB investigation found no information on Wade Miller Wrecker in any phone book or online listing service. Also, BBB that serves Swartz Creek, Michigan stated that there was no company that used this name located there.
BBB President Jim Hegarty stated, “This scam appears to be targeting the auto repair industry today, but the wire money scam has been around for a long time and can be easily altered to target other types of businesses. Companies should always be on guard and never wire money to an unknown person, even if they have given you a credit card to cover the cost.”
BBB offers the following tips to help avoid these scams:
Write it down. Collect as much information as possible from the caller and the purported towing company, including the name, address, e-mail address, phone number they provide—and if applicable—the one that appears on the caller ID. Note other distinguishing features, such as an accent or other identifying information.
Speak up. If you suspect a call is fraudulent, report it to the state Attorney General’s Office and BBB for investigation. If it is a suspicious repair request via e-mail, file a complaint at www.ic3.gov.