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Published on February 15, 2005

Scammers are out to get you

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Opinion

AKRON (Feb. 14, 2005) — If you've received a call recently from someone—the name really doesn't matter—who'd like to order tires from Nigeria, Ghana or California or even from a guy who claims to be at the construction site down the street, beware.


If that call comes in from a phone operator stating he or she has a customer on the line who can speak to you only via a relay service, beware.


And if, after giving you an address for where you should send the tires, that caller provides you with a credit card number over the phone, beware: You may be on the receiving end of a scam.


Remember that age-old advice?—“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Heed it.


Since reporting in our Jan. 31 issue about a series of scams making the rounds of tire dealerships nationwide, dealers literally have come out of the woodwork to let us know they've either been victims or near victims of similarly devised subterfuge.


It usually involves stolen credit card numbers and off-shore customers—in countries that, besides Nigeria and Ghana, also have included Belgium, Canada and the United Kingdom.


In one case, a dealer told us about a “supervisor” from a local construction site who called to order two steer-axle tires he claimed were needed immediately. The caller's credit card number was approved, and a couple of workers came by to pick up the tires. The next day when the “supervisor” ordered 10 more tires and asked that they be left outside for pickup, the dealer became suspicious and declined that order.


It was then that he discovered the card number used for the first purchase had been stolen in a case of identity theft.


A poll on the Tire Business Web site, www.tirebusiness.com, asking whether dealers have ever fallen victim to a credit card scam has provided some eye-opening statistics. Though the poll results are unscientific, some 38 percent of almost 70 respondents acknowledged they'd been scammed and received a “very expensive lesson.” Another third said they “smelled a rat just in time.”


No one is quite sure whether this recent rash of cons can be called an epidemic, but an agent with the FBI told us there seems to be a number of scammers trying to snare unwary tire dealers.


Once dealers as a legion become aware of the assorted variations on these swindles, the perpetrators likely will move on to pastures colored greener by the dollar signs of victims in perhaps other service-based industries.


For the most part, the best protection against these swindles is to be aware of them and be leery of any tire sale—no matter how small or how lucrative-sounding—in which an unknown customer offers to pay with a credit card over the phone. In such an environment, perhaps the best defense is seller beware.

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