It feels as if winter will never stop — and the same, sadly, can be said about scammers.  They use every angle to try to steal money and personal and financial information from consumers.

So it will come as no surprise that the snow brings out the scammers.  The Better Business Bureau (BBB) just posted a “winter scam alert” about two of the latest scams. The BBB alert also has the top 4 tips that consumers can use to try and protect themselves from winter scams (scam alert@council.bbb.org; “Walking in a Winter Wonder …Scam”; February 27).

What are the two scams?

  1. “Your heating bill is overdue”: Someone calls alleging she’s from the consumer’s local electric or gas company.  The caller scares the consumer by telling him that his bill is late and that the consumer better pay ASAP or his heat will go off.  Maybe the consumer knows he’s paid but worries that the payment hasn’t yet been received.  And the caller is very demanding and threatening.  The caller tells the consumer that he can pay but not by a credit card or check but only by a pre-paid debit card.  Don’t do it!  Any consumer paying that way can kiss his money goodbye.  Just call the local company and get the right information.
  2.  “We’ll shovel your driveway”: Scammers know that consumers trapped in their homes by mounds of snow might be more   than willing to quickly hire someone to do the job for them.  The contractor names a price, expects payment up front and then the work isn’t done at all or is done poorly.  The scam contractor now has the consumer’s cash or maybe her credit card number or a check — all information that could potentially be misused.

The BBB’s “4 tips” are worth reading even if the tips are ones consumers know (e.g., confirm identity of company; never pay with a pre-paid debit card).  It pays to be reminded of these tips to avoid getting caught by a “snow scammer.”