Reghan Winkler: The Lima region’s top 5 scams of 2021

By Reghan Winkler - Better Business Bureau

In an Internet-reliant, interconnected world, the methods and reasons fraudsters use to trick people are constantly changing. Scammers monitor the news to take advantage of whatever chaos and current information may be effective in convincing people to part ways with their money or vital information. The COVID pandemic, widespread unemployment, increased online shopping are a few examples.

If you add those situations above to the historically reliable Medicare/Social Security scams, bogus sweepstakes/lotteries, and fake charity scams, you’ll come up with the top five scams of 2021.

1. The Unemployment Scam — In what is described as the most massive scam opportunity ever, scammers raced to exploit the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. By utilizing bots to file bogus unemployment claims in the name of actual people, fraudsters were able to steal an estimated $200 billion from the government program. People who never filed for unemployment received letters telling them their PUA benefits were expiring. Those peoples’ identities were stolen, and the filings also caused severe tax liability problems for those compromised.

We still receive lots of calls regarding this scam. If you may have been a victim of the scam, go to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services hotline at 833-658-0394 or online at and press the “Report Identity Theft” button to report the fraud.

2. Social Security/Medicare Scams — In these scams, victims receive a scary phone call or email purporting to be from either the Social Security Administration or Medicare stating there has been suspicious activity on the victim’s account. Victims are told that unless they provide personal information or credit card numbers for payments of fines, penalties or fees, their account would be suspended.

If you receive one of these scam calls or emails do not give any information. Hang up immediately. If you get a call regarding Social Security, contact Social Security’s Office of Inspector General online at

3. Amazon Scam — An “erroneous charge” of $499 to a victim’s account is reportedly “detected by Amazon.” In attempting to “credit the account” $499, $3,499 was credited instead. To rectify the “mistake,” the fake Amazon rep said the victim should purchase $3,000 of CVS gift cards and relay the numbers on the back.

Keep in mind: Amazon never asks you to disclose or verify sensitive personal information or offer you a refund you do not expect.

4. Sweepstakes/Lotteries Scam — Often known as the Publishers Clearing House(PCH) scam, victims receive a phone call or email claiming they were the lucky winners of the PCH, or another sweepstakes or lottery. In order to collect their winnings, victims are told they must pay fees upfront in the form of prepaid debit cards or MoneyGram.

Remember, if you didn’t enter it, you can’t win it! Don’t buy the cards or MoneyGram!

5. Pop Up Charity Scams — Disasters, veterans and holidays are all reasons Americans generously give their hard-earned dollars to help those in need. Unfortunately, these reasons are also exploited by scammers who set up bogus “pop up” charities to take advantage of well-intentioned donors. They mimic genuine nonprofits by using direct mail, email, and telemarketing tactics to fleece those with a giving spirit.

Make sure your donations go to legitimate causes by checking with watchdogs like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and the Better Business Bureau‘s Wise Giving Alliance. Also, pay attention to the charity’s name and web addresses. Scammers often mimic the names of the familiar, trusted organizations to fool donors.

These were our area’s top five scams in 2021, but this article just scratches the surface. Call us at the BBB if you encounter a situation that seems suspicious. We can help you!

By Reghan Winkler

Better Business Bureau

Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

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