SPECIAL PROJECT: Summer Scams in West Michigan

    SPECIAL PROJECT: Summer Scams in West Michigan. (File - MGN)

    As the weather warms West Michigan, scammers turn up the heat on their targets. They're always looking for a way to rip someone off, but scammers shift their methods during warmer months.

    John Masterson, the marketing director with the Better Business Bureau of West Michigan, said many of these scams sound too good to be true.

    "They will put it out in very public places and oftentimes you don't know it's a scam until someone's reported it," Masterson said. "Just throw me cash, and as soon as you turn over the cash the money's gone."

    Online scams: what's happening and what you can do

    The BBB has found that no group or demographic is safe from scammers, but online scammers are hurting a particular age group more than others.

    "The common misconception is that older folks are less knowing and less understanding and they give away and get ripped off more often," Masterson said. "It is more millennials. It is folks that do understand the internet, but don't understand what folks are doing with it and are used to giving out their information in any number of ways."

    Masterson said any amount of personal information you give out is too much.

    "Driver's license. Date of birth. You name it. Everything," Masterson said. "Those are personally identifiable pieces of information that once they have it they can turn around and open a credit card in your name."

    The BBB said you should be skeptical if a website, email or pop up ever asks you to provide your personal information. You should not need to give your social security number or banking information.

    To spot a fake business that could try to take your money and never return a service, check to see if the website has information on how to speak with or go to the business.

    "They'll provide a legitimate looking website but no phone number or no address," Masterson said. "So then, if or when something goes wrong there's no way to contact or find these people."

    What scams are in West Michigan now:

    The BBB tracks scams all over the country and puts the data into an interactive map to report how people have been scammed nationwide. The map allows you to search by type, date and region. We asked Masterson about the types of scams West Michigan is seeing right now as well as what scams we can expect to see soon. The map page also offers a link to report a scam.

    The Better Business Bureau has a free scam tracker on their website that you can use to see what scams have plagued your area. You can search geographically, by date and by scam type. Photo taken from BBB website.

    Door to door sales: These come in variety of forms, but the main gist stays the same. Someone will knock on your door offering you a deal that's too good to be true. The catch is they need a payment or down payment immediately. Masterson listed examples such as extra mulch they brought to your neighbor that they could use to fill your flowerbeds.

    "Then they ask for a huge deposit up front," Masterson said. "You pay it, and then you never see that person again."

    Fake job postings: As workers look for summer jobs, fake adds begin to grow. Masterson said be wary of jobs that offer high pay and low hours. These are likely fake.

    "We have even come across folks that pay to promote potential jobs on indeed.com, and then turn out to be these kind of employment scams to pull information, money or anything else out of you in promise for a lucrative job you can do just for the summer," Masterson said.

    The BBB recommends that you should not give out your banking information or provide a down payment for training before you start working.

    Fake movers: These scams can take your money and your stuff. Before trusting a moving company you need to verify they're a trustworthy business.

    "In some instances they show up as they should. They pack up your stuff as they should. Then they never deliver your stuff to your next location," Masterson said. "They kind of hold your stuff hostage or sell it off if they want to."

    To avoid this, be sure to check the website you're using for an address, email address and phone number. You can also look for ratings online to see if the company is well thought of by other customers.

    Storm chaser: These scammers strike when bad weather wreaks havoc. They knock on doors and volunteer to provide help for a small fee, such as $50 to remove the downed tree in your yard.

    "It's putting people on the spot," Masterson said. "They say they're really trying to help them, but then taking advantage of them on the back end."

    To avoid this, do not pay up front nor in cash. If you do have to pay up front, both check and credit card are safer. Plus, your bank can help you get your money back.

    IRS Scam: After tax season, Masterson said, there is a growing number of scammers who pose as IRS agents. The IRS will not call you demanding payments. For more information on how the IRS will contact you about a tax problem you can check their website.

    For more stories like this follow Jason Puhr on Twitter and Facebook.

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