AG Knudsen warns of common website scams during National Consumer Protection Week
HELENA – Attorney General Austin Knudsen is warning Montanans of three common website-based scams – including rental, pet, and ammunition scams – during National Consumer Protection Week which runs from March 6-12.
“Always be on high alert for scammers trying to rip you off through deceptive websites and marketing practices,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “There are a few simple tips to keep in mind as you’re making purchases, but always remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut.”
For a rental scam, scammers will steal a photo of a local rental or real estate listing that is currently listed and change the contact information before posting the deceptive ad online. Interested renters are then told that the owner is out of town or had to move quickly so the prospective renter never meets the owner of the location. Communicating only through email, the scammer requests first and last month’s rent and the security deposit via money wiring or payment apps, like Venmo or Zelle.
Online pet scams are similar to rental scams as it is common for scammers to steal photographs from legitimate breeders to create fake websites to advertise expensive specialty breeds for low prices. Oftentimes, they will also demand payment via apps and offer to fly the animal to the buyer.
Ammunition and firearm scams have become more common as shortages and increased prices of the products continue throughout the state. Scam websites may claim to have ammunition and firearms that are hard to find available at prices that are too good to be true – usually half of MSRP. They may also offer products that are difficult to obtain but charge large shipping insurance fees. Typically, they fail to provide a confirmation email to the buyer, require payment via app, and have a lot of grammatical errors.
To avoid falling victim to these scams, keep these tips in mind:
- If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Avoid using third-party payment apps.
- Don’t be pressured to send money. Consult family, friends, or the Montana Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection before sending money via computer or phone.
- Never send money to someone you don’t know.
- Check to ensure the website is secure.
- Verify the business address.
- When considering a pet or rental property you’ve found online, perform additional research to verify photos and reviews.
- When considering a rental property, ask for an in-person tour.
- When in doubt, do not purchase.
Montanans can report any phone, email, or mail scams to the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection at https://app.doj.mt.gov/OCPPortal/?q=node/396, [email protected], or (406) 444-4500 or toll free at (800) 481-6896.
Last year, the Office of Consumer Protection fielded 945 scam complaints and successfully saved Montanans from losing more than $1.3 million, including $869,600 that was recovered for Montanans who were victimized by scammers and $465,579 in prevented loss for consumers who called inquiring about whether they were being scammed.