Heads up, Vail Valley, ’tis also the season for scams
EAGLE COUNTY — If someone tries to extract money from you by claiming to be a celebrity or a sheriff’s deputy, chances are it’s a scam.
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office has been fielding complaints that telephone callers are posing as deputies, and claiming to have an arrest warrant for the people receiving the calls.
The phony deputy then claims that if a fine is not paid immediately, you’ll be arrested.
It gets more complicated because the callers are using technology that make it appear they’re calling from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office main phone line, 970-328-8500.
They’re not, the Sheriff’s Office said.
“These requests are not legitimate and do not originate from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office or other related agencies,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
And don’t give them money or information.
“When you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you significantly increase your chances of becoming a victim,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
The Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission are taking a nationwide view, pointing out scams that promise easy weight loss, whiter teeth or disappearing wrinkles — and a “risk-free” trial — if only you’ll enter your name, address and credit card number. Many even claim celebrity endorsements.
Don’t do it. Many of these free trial offers are not free, the Better Business Bureau says.
The Better Business Bureau did an investigative study about it: “Subscription Traps and Deceptive Free Trials Scam Millions with Misleading Ads and Fake Celebrity Endorsements.”
The study found that many of the celebrity endorsements in these ads are fake. Dozens of celebrity names are used by these frauds without their knowledge or permission, ranging from Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres to Mike Rowe, Tim Allen and Sally Field. Sometimes the fine print even admits these endorsements are not real.
Once people are in that snare, they can find it difficult to contact the seller to stop recurring charges, halt shipments and get refunds — terms that might violate Federal Trade Commission and BBB guidelines on advertising, as do the satisfaction guarantees that are ubiquitous in free trial offers.
Can be credible
Free trial offers can be a legitimate way for credible companies to introduce new products. However, frauds have turned such offers into a global multibillion-dollar industry, one that grows every year, the Better Business Bureau said.
Federal Trade Commission data shows that complaints about “free trials” more than doubled from 2015 to 2017. Consumers making reports to BBB lost an average of $186; 72 percent of those victims were female, the BBB said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.