Resident warns Park City businesses to be on the lookout for scams | ParkRecord.com

Resident warns Park City businesses to be on the lookout for scams

Diania Turner has a warm, welcoming smile and speaks in a calm tone that puts those around her at ease. But here’s the thing: She is not someone to be trifled with.

And now, she’s trying to make sure no one messes with her town either.

The owner of FASTAXI, a Park City-based transportation dispatch service, Turner said she and others she knows have been targeted by scammers in recent months. She has not taken the bait, but she wants to get the word out to other Park City businesses to ensure they don’t fall for them either.

"It’s absolutely worrying," she said. "You’ve got to be really careful and vigilant. There are a lot of scams going on in Park City right now. There are a lot of people looking to steal our money."

Scammers first targeted FASTAXI over the winter, when Turner received a text from someone asking for her largest limo service. She knew something was amiss when the person declined to offer simple details, such as where they wanted to be picked up and dropped off. The scammer then asked for her email address.

"I said, ‘Well, before I give you my email address, I would like to talk to you on the phone,’" Turner said. "They said they were hearing-impaired and that was the only way they could talk. I asked them to get a hearing-able person to contact me, because he wouldn’t give me any information and it made me nervous. He said he didn’t have anyone who could talk to me."

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Turner then looked up the scam on the Internet and discovered it’s a common ploy. Scammers order a company’s largest service, then ask the businesses to run extra money on their credit card, supposedly so they can pay someone else involved in the service who doesn’t accept credit cards.

"Of course, they aren’t really wanting your service, and all they’ve gotten is your $1,700," Turner said.

The same scammer — or someone else using the same ploy — contacted Turner again about three weeks ago. And she’s heard stories from others in the area who scammers have gone after, too. She hopes that by making people aware that scams are a problem here, they will be less likely to fall for them.

"If it’s too good to be true, it’s like the old adage — it is," she said. "Always check it out. If you do your due diligence and prove that it’s legitimate, then you’ve just proven that you’re smart and you’ve lost nothing."

Daniel O’Bannon, director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, said scams targeting small businesses are less common than those luring individual consumers but are nonetheless prevalent. Common scams include: businesses receiving phony invoices for Yellow Pages ads; business identity theft, where scammers use the phone numbers or other information about the businesses to trick consumers; and calls supposedly from the IRS seeking money.

"You might think it’s so obvious that it’s not a problem," O’Bannon said. "But when you get the call and someone is saying you owe the IRS money and you’re going to jail tomorrow if you don’t pay, all of us would have the tendency to say, ‘Wait, is this real?’"

The best way for businesses to ensure they don’t fall victim to a scammer is simply to be vigilant, O’Bannon said. If something smells fishy, it probably is. He advises using the Internet to search a potential scam, and a quick call to law enforcement or the Division of Consumer Protection can also provide valuable information.

"Instead of pressing on and thinking you’re too paranoid, just call us," he said.

How small businesses can avoid scams

Info from Utah Division of Consumer Protection

  • If there is a red flag, do research about potential scam and call authorities
  • If a business opportunity is too good to be true, it probably is
  • If asked to pay through non-traditional means, probably a scam
  • Protect all important info, and shred documents when possible
  • Train employees to be vigilant about the possibility of scams