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The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” applies to numerous scams perpetrated on limousine operators. From emails bestowing large amounts of cash to the last known heir, to more dubious group travel arrangements, gullible and even savvy operators have fallen victim.
The Internet has become quite the tool for scammers trying to take advantage of limousine operators. It is such a big problem that the FBI has addressed the situation on its website with advice on dealing with scams. Many scams originate in Nigeria where it has been said that credit card fraud is almost a national sport, according to the FBI. The official law governing fraud in Nigeria is known as Section 419; a Google search of 419 will bring up a host of anti-scammer websites.
Almost all scams have a common goal of obtaining your bank account, your credit card number, your personal information, or all three. Once the information is obtained, your bank account easily can be drained or you might rack up debt on a new credit card you didn’t even know you had. You might exhaust the credit line of a credit card without knowing it until your next statement arrives or a purchase is declined by a vendor because your card has reached its limit without your knowledge.
There are many different types of scams. Email invitations offering jobs as secret shoppers, paid survey takers, or other work from home jobs such as medical billing arrive regularly for most people. In most cases, there is a fee for a “starter kit” that may show up and be of no value or not be received at all. In fact, a scammer may obtain your credit card number and use it to make other purchases unbeknownst to you until your statement arrives. There are also industry specific scams such as a request to provide group or family transportation over a period of several days. There are scams to charge operators a “broker fee” for setting up transportation in a ploy simply to obtain your credit card number, or a scammer may ask you for your bank routing information to deposit funds for an upcoming trip. The promise of a lot of money being deposited in your account today can seem attractive if you don’t realize it is a scam.
The newest scam, taking advantage of technology, uses TTY relay services. This service is staffed by telephone operators who take text messages from the TTY web-based service. Instead of using specialized TTY hardware, deaf people can use a chat interface with the phone operators. Unwitting TTY operators are placing calls to merchants and then directing them to ship goods or procure services paid for with stolen credit card numbers.
Jess Sandhu of A & A Limousine Service in Seattle received one of these calls. “The guy on the other end insisted that I give him my email address.” After complying, Sandhu received an email requesting service for Washington, D.C. Sandhu told the relay operator he was in Seattle. Shortly after the first call, Sandhu received another call from the relay service from the same person requesting service in Seattle for the same dates as the first call. “It is really annoying as the spammers are now using relay services to make it look like legit,” Sandu says.