[In the player above, watch previous FOX 8 News coverage on a Facebook Marketplace scam impacting Stark County residents.]
(WJW) — A new scam making the rounds appears to be offering free money from Columbia Gas of Ohio — but it’s actually an attempt at getting the target’s bank account details.
The utility’s customers and non-customers have reported receiving the suspicious letter, claiming to be from the “Payment Department” at Columbia Gas of Ohio, along with fake checks.
“These checks are fraudulent and do not come from us,” reads a Thursday news release from the company. “This is an attempt to steal funds and personal information from unsuspecting customers.”
The scammers instruct the targets to deposit the fake check at their bank, and then email back a copy of the deposit slip. It even cautions targets against throwing the letter away. Rest assured, you can.
“Don’t fall victim to scams!” the utility warned. “Protect yourself from scams and fraud by approaching uncertain situations with caution.”
Anyone who thinks they’ve been contacted by a scammer claiming to be from Columbia Gas can call If you believe you may have been contacted by a scammer claiming to be Columbia Gas, call the utility’s help center at 1-800-344-4077.
What are the signs of a scam?
Fake check scams are one of the several types of scams covered on the Ohio Attorney General’s Office’s website.
“Someone sends you a check or money order, which you are asked to deposit in your account and wire-transfer the sender a portion of the money, minus a nice bonus for you as a ‘thank you’ for helping out,” it reads. “Regardless of the pitch, the result is the same: The check or money order you receive is counterfeit. It will be returned to your bank unpaid, and the full amount will be deducted from your account. Never wire-transfer money to a stranger.”
Here are some telltale signs you’re being scammed, according to the Attorney General’s Office:
- Being asked to wire money to a stranger or friend in need
- Being selected for a mystery shopping job, especially if you never applied
- Pressure to “act now!”
- Being asked to buy a prepaid money card
- Sending money in advance to secure or insure a loan
- Winning a contest you’ve never heard of or entered
- Having to pay a fee to receive your “prize”
- Requests for your personal information
- Requests for a large down payment
- A company that refuses to provide written information
To report a scam to the Attorney General’s fraud unit, use the online form found on the office’s website.