CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Pat Coggins and her daughter, Annabelle Suddreth got a strange phone call last week.
“We were having dinner and my mom got a phone call and was told that she was going to get $5000,” said Suddreth.
Suddreth took the phone from her mother and was told the money was coming from the Government Grants Department.
That made Suddreth suspicious and she found out later that the “Government Grant” scam has been around for four years.
The Federal Trade Commission has even posted a warning about it on the commission web page.
Tom Bartholomy of the Better Business Bureau was familiar with the scam.
“As they reel you in during the process, they say there are fees that have to be paid.”
He says the scammers will ask for a money order for hundreds of dollars or a green dot card pre-loaded with cash, but the promised grant never comes through.
“They had my mom’s name, they had her address, and they had her phone number, and that disturbs me,” she said.
With NBC Charlotte reporter Rad Berky sitting at her side, Suddreth tried again to call the number that was left on her mother’s cell phone. It continually rang busy.
While she and her mother did not lose any money, another woman in south Charlotte was not so lucky.
The total charges that were processed is around $8700,” said the woman, who did not want her name made public.
She had paid some bills by check and left the envelopes in her mailbox out front for the postal worker to pick up.
Big mistake, says the Better Business Bureau’s Bartholomy, “It’s one of the hottest forms of identity theft out there.”
In fact, he said there is a name for the bad guys, “Red flag bandits”.
The woman‘s mail was picked up by someone who opened it, took her check information and started making purchases at area stores.
The lesson learned, she said, is if you are paying a bill with a check, take it to a regular blue mailbox or to the post office.
The red flag on your own mailbox is a signal to anyone that you might be sending out something that could be valuable to a thief looking for your financial information.