Our tropical home provides a warm, picturesque backdrop to our daily lives. No other state in the country can claim to have the same unique beauty that Florida does, nor its diverse combination of peoples, world views and values.
Florida also has its share of truly unique news stories. Whatever the reason may be, we have been home to some very distinctive fraud schemes. It’s critical to always be aware of the most common of these ploys and to not let yourself, or someone you care about, fall into one.
Many people have heard of Ponzi schemes their entire lives, but few people know what the schemes actually are. A Ponzi scheme is an investing scam which promises new members a high rate of return on their initial investments. The reality is that the funds are given to more senior members and little to no return is given to new members; similar to a pyramid scheme.
If you are considering investing, always be sure that you are privy to the investment strategies and paperwork for your investment. Telltale signs of a Ponzi scheme is being denied one or both of these because they are “confidential” or “too complicated” for investors to understand.
Credit and debit card “skimmers” are illegal card readers which thieves attach to ATMs and other places you may use a pay card. The skimmers are designed to look just like the real card reader. When a person runs their card, however, their information and PIN number are harvested and given to the thieves. EMV chips in modern cards have stemmed the use of skimmers, but they still exist.
Skimmers must be attached to legitimate card scanners. If you are suspicious, look for signs of tampering on the machine such as scratches, misaligned graphics or different materials. Skimmers are also often hastily installed where ATMs are often very sturdy. If you notice poor construction, consider moving on to the next cash machine.
Sober home fraud
Sober homes and treatment centers are lifesaving resources designed to help those in need to get clean. There has recently been a particularly upsetting trend of fraudulent sober homes using recovering addicts to make money. The sober homes attract recovering individuals with promises of lax rules, gifts and free rent, then use them to collect money for everything from health care fraud to sex trafficking.
Progress is being made to stop this practice – sober home fraudster Kenneth Chatman was sentenced to almost 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to three federal offenses. If you or someone you care about is recovering, be sure to thoroughly vet any potential living situation.
The fad of telephone psychics and tarot card readings have fizzled out considerable since the height of their popularity in the 1990s, but they aren’t gone entirely. Rose Marks, famously a psychic hailing from Florida, managed to scam 24 individuals out of nearly 20 million dollars before being caught and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Miss Cleo and the Psychic Readers Network were also nabbed by authorities. They eventually paid a $500 million settlement after years of guaranteeing mystical insight and guidance.
While it is often heartening to speak with someone who claims to read the future, remember that these services are for entertainment purposes and often describe themselves as such.
Don’t fall victim to these common, and historically effective, schemes individuals use to trick people out of their hard-earned money. Always perform your due diligence and research the situation before agreeing to pay for a service – and remember the adage that when someone seems too good to be true, it probably is.