ONLY ON KOLD: Top 3 scams in southern Arizona

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - While fake lottery emails and bogus bank offers have been around for a long time, a number of other types of scams have recently been surfacing in southern Arizona in large numbers.

The Better Business Bureau of southern Arizona breaks down the top 3 scams hitting southern Arizona over the past year.

1. Online payday loan scams

Recently, Tucsonan Annette Burruel was shocked to learn she had became a victim of an online payday loan scam.  One Saturday morning, she work up checked her bank account online, like she does everyday.  "And that's when I saw the money had come out," Annette said.

She noticed $30 withdrawn from her checking account -- $30 that went to an online payday loan company that she had never heard of, nor ever applied for any loans with.  She contacted the company after finding them online.

"I told them, 'I have not applied for anything.'  And she said, 'yeah, you did, we have your information.' I said, 'you may have my information, but I didn't give it to you.'" Annette recalled.

And unfortunately for Annette, the financial hurt didn't end with just the $30.  "It was in between paydays," she explained. "I didn't have enough to cover it when it came out, and so there were overdraft fees."

Annette was in disbelief.  But the harsh reality, according to the Better Business Bureau of southern Arizona, is that online payday loan scams are one of the top 3 scams hitting southern Arizonans right now.

"It's more common than we would like," said Nick LaFleur, with the Better Business Bureau of southern Arizona.

LaFleur says his BBB office has received several complaints about this scam starting in 2010 -- the same year that the state of Arizona banned traditional payday loan companies from our streets.

"So, I think it's either that (the scammers) are specifically targeting Arizona, or it could be that consumers are going to search them out now since they can't go down the street," La Fleur said.

2. Solar panel installation scams

Another top scam that centers on southern Arizona involves less-than-reputable companies offering to install solar panels on people's property.  These scams usually come in the form of robo-calls posing as the federal government, touting energy savings and upgrades, while promising rebates that never materialize.

Given our sunny climate, southern Arizona is an easy target for these kinds of offers.  "We have a lot of sun in southern Arizona, so they hit us pretty hard," LaFleur explained.

LeFleur emphasizes that there are plenty of legitimate, reputable companies offering solar panel installation, as well as legitimate government rebates and incentives, so it's up to the consumer to research extensively before agreeing to an offer.

3. Debt reduction services scam

Another top scam in the Tucson region involves con artists offering to help reduce your credit card debt.  "A lot of times, what these places do is just send a legal letter to credit agencies to dispute certain debts in your name," LaFleur explained.  "But in more cases than not, no debt is actually reduced."

Experts say this particular scam has been running rampant since the recession, as more people have taken on credit card debt just to get by.

"Unfortunately, scam artists tend to really try to prey on people who are in between a rock and a hard place," he added.

In order to protect yourself from these or any scams, the BBB advises consumers to research as much as possible about a company before agreeing to do any business.  LaFleur warns to look out for traps like upfront fees and other red flags.  Check with your local Better Business Bureau office if you have any hesitations about an offer or a company.

Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona:

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