Online, Phone and Door-to-Door Scams


There seem to be new scam warnings issued almost every day. Criminals use a variety of scenarios to persuade and even threaten their chosen victims into giving them information and money.

Southern California Gas recently released an alert to customers warning them of a utility earthquake valve scam. According to SoCalGas, the scammers were going door-to-door presenting themselves as sales personnel offering to install an earthquake shutoff valve and “promising that SoCalGas would provide a rebate.”  Although customers reporting the issue were in Torrance, scams often start in one location then move into another.

“While earthquake shutoff valves are available and can be installed by a licensed professional, SoCalGas does not currently offer a rebate for earthquake shutoff valves,” stated SoCalGas.

Earlier this month the FBI warned that “cyber actors use online dating sites to conduct confidence/romance fraud.” This type of fraud is when a scammer convinces a victim they have a trusted relationship. The platform of online dating is used to build the trust then, at some point, the scammer will state s/he is in trouble and needs money.

One of the examples shared by the FBI was a scammer, claiming to be a U.S. citizen living abroad, built a relationship with the victim over several months. During this time gifts from the victim were sent to a foreign address. After a few months the criminal will talk about how much s/he would love to return to the U.S. but does not have the funds. The victim is asked to help and, in many cases s/he wires money to the scammer. In some cases, the victim will resend the funds when the scammer claims s/he did not receive them.

According to the FBI, some of these scam criminals will go as far as to send a travel itinerary and, when they don’t arrive “they claim they were arrested and ask for more money to be posted for their bail.”

The scam can continue for months or as long as victims believe they are in a trusted relationship. The scam can grow from sending money to actually having victims open a bank account for the scammer, which is used to transfer money illegally.

In the past, CVW has reported on a variety of scams that target the elderly through telemarketing and phone scams, but there is one that has been targeting recent college graduates.

CVW was contacted about this type of college loan scam. In these cases, a caller will often state s/he is from the “school loan department” and offers a “loan forgiveness” program for the victim.

“Borrowers have reported receiving phone calls, emails, letters, and/or texts offering them relief from their federal student loans or warning them that student loan forgiveness programs would end soon. Usually the so-called student loan debt relief companies offering these types of services don’t offer any relief at all. Often they’re just fraudsters who are after your money,” according to the Federal Student Aid Office, U.S. Dept. of Education. “You never have to pay for help with your student loans.”

There is a loan forgiveness program that is available for some college graduates, depending upon their careers/employment and economic situation. For information on help available for student loans, visit and the Federal Student Aid website at

The Better Business Bureau has some steps people can take to avoid scams:

1. Never send money to someone you have never met face-to-face.

2. Don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails.

3. Don’t believe everything you see. Sometimes scammers will create an official seal on a website or letterhead.

4. Don’t buy online unless the transaction is secure.

5. Be extremely cautious when dealing with anyone you’ve met online.

6. Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it is over the phone, email, on social media or at your door.

7. Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically try to make you think something has a time limit and you have to act fast.

8. Use secure, traceable transactions when making payments for goods, services, taxes and debts.

9. Whenever possible work with local businesses.

10. Be cautious about what you share on social media.