This Lead-in-Water Check is a Scam

Snippets issue highlights lead-in-water, movie money, bogus arts grants and inventor scams: Internet Scambusters #748

Reports of thieves posing as lead-in-water experts on door-to-door visits head up our Snippets issue this week.

We also have reports on realistic-looking movie money being used for Craigslist purchases, bogus grants being offered to artists — for a fee — and the risks of inventions being stolen by Chinese manufacturers.

Plus, we’ve a warning about a new phishing scam targeting users of Google’s Chrome browser.

Let’s get started…

This Lead-in-Water Check is a Scam

There’s a lot of interest these days about water purity — and especially scares about lead in water supplies.

Not surprising really, considering that not so long ago, nearly every city water supply had lead piping somewhere. And we now know that lead in drinking water is potentially harmful.

So, perhaps when someone turns up at your front door claiming to be from your local water company and wanting to test your supply for lead, you might be inclined to believe him, especially if he’s wearing a uniform.

However, it’s highly unlikely that any water company would send someone to your home without notifying you first, so this is the first indication it’s probably be a scam.

Next, the visitor asks you to go turn on the faucet in the bathroom and maybe in other places in the home, leaving him alone and free to steal whatever comes quickly to hand in your home.

He may even ask you to go outside with him to check drains and guttering, allowing an accomplice to sneak inside and join in the theft spree.

This con trick has happened in a number of places, most recently in Denver, where a local water company official explained: “We never actually visit a home when we’re doing our lead testing program. We’ll send you a box with three empty bottles. Customers draw the sample, box it up and a courier will pick it up and bring it back to the lab.”

This is probably the standard procedure used by most water companies, so if someone comes knocking at your door, even in uniform, don’t let him in and don’t go outside with him.

Ask to see his ID and tell him to come back later after you’ve checked him out with the water company.

Chances are you won’t see him again.

Paying with Movie Money

If someone offered to pay you in Monopoly money, you’d know straightaway it was fake, wouldn’t you?

But it’s not so easy when bogus bills look like the real thing.

Most commonly, fake money comes in the form of forged notes. But creating a realistic forgery takes a lot of time and skill.

On the other hand, there’s a stack of ready-made fakes that seems to have fallen into the hands of scammers presenting themselves as cash buyers using the online classified ad site Craigslist.

They’re using movie money, fairly realistic looking notes that are used on movie sets.

These notes are easily available from legitimate online movie-prop sellers for around $25 for a five-stack bundle. Each stack contains mostly blanks but with fake $100 bills on the front and back.

That means you get 10 fake $100 bills for $25.

If you take the time to examine them, the fakes are easy to spot. For instance, they’re thicker than regular notes.

But, most importantly, they’re overprinted with the words “For motion picture use only,” though often in the same color and typeface as other words on the bills, so you have to inspect them carefully.

That hasn’t stopped eager Craigslist sellers falling for the trick. Usually, the notes are placed in an envelope where it’s fairly easy to count them without taking them out.

That’s what the scammer is banking on. But now you know, always check cash bills when you’re selling anything. And, just in case you think they’re genuine but turn out to be good forgeries later, ask to see the buyer’s driver’s license so you can ID him if need be.

Bogus Grants

Fake money is also turning up in the shape of non-existent grants currently being touted to artists and arts groups.

Scammers pose as representatives from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) — a legitimate federal agency — offering money via email and Facebook.

Artists, generally being a financially hard-pressed group, may be quick to take the bait. But when they do — guess what — this fake version of the organization says recipients must pay what they call “seed money” upfront, via a money-wire service.

Worse still, victims are told the more seed money they put up, the bigger the grant they’ll get.

The NEA, which only hands out a very small number of grants, says it “never notifies individuals or organizations that are recommended for a grant through Facebook and never requests money before releasing grant funds.”

Inventors Beware

If you’re an inventor, especially of new-tech type products, you’d probably be eager to find a corporate partner who could help you develop a prototype and then open up a production line.

But watch out!

Some Chinese companies touting for new product ideas in the West offer to do just that — make prototypes for inventors supposedly with a view to becoming the manufacturer.

But they may actually be planning to steal the technology behind the invention to use for themselves.

Alternatively, they may try to take full control of you or your company by promising to invest in the project and then tie you up with contractual mumbo-jumbo.

If you’re an inventor, you can learn more about this scam in this article: The China Fake Investment Scam: Does that Chinese Company Want to Invest in Your Company or Steal Your Technology?

Alert of the Week

Users of Google’s Chrome browser are warned of a new piece of malware that can affect PCs when users visit a compromised website.

Text on the site seems to be illegible and the user is presented with a pop-up alert that says: “The Hoefler text font was not found.” It then offers the chance to download this font so you can read the page.

Don’t do it — or you’ll be downloading malware onto your device.

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!