By John L. Fossum Rice County Attorney
One of the ongoing concerns is the prevalence of scam phone calls and attempts to convince people to send away their hard-earned money. A common scam early in the year is a phone call claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment to avoid arrest. If the IRS is attempting to contact you about your taxes they will do so by mail and not by threatening automated phone call.
Another common scam is an email or phone call claiming that you have won a sweepstakes or lottery or other prize. First though you must send money in order to collect your prize. If you do not recall entering the Irish Sweepstakes or another lottery it stands to reason that you did not win. If you legitimately entered a contest and won a cash prize, it stands to reason you would be able to collecting without fronting cash.
Recently we have also seen a boom in email and occasionally phone calls claiming to be from a relative or friend overseas who has been robbed, or put in jail, or otherwise inconvenienced. These again sound a common theme, you need to send money to bail out your friend or relative, or to help them get on a plane home. Often the person reportedly overseas has not left home. Iif you are concerned, check to be sure you know of their whereabouts and do not forward money to people and places if you do not know exactly who will be receiving you funds and where that person is located.
Never give out your personal information, particularly your social security number or credit card information over the phone if you did not initiate the call and do not know you have connected with the intended business. The IRS and your bank will not call your house “just to confirm” your social security number. If someone calls and asks for personal details say you do not give out personal information over the phone. To help cut down on unsolicited calls, add your number to the national do not call list by registering online at www.donotcall.gov or calling: 888-382 1222. Political organizations, surveys and businesses you have an ongoing relationship with will still be able to call you, but others must not. If they do, say “please put me on your do not call list” in order to end future contacts.
Offers that seem too good to be true usually are. Ask to see details of the great deal and plan in writing and for time to make a decision before signing up for something you are not clear about. Beware of time pressure put on you by sales people, one-time offers, today only, act now, and you don’t need to check out the offer are all warning signs that you may be being scammed.
If you get offers for investments, check out the offer with a reputable financial advisor. Before giving to a charity check to see how the money is spent. If a large percentage goes to overhead, maybe you would feel better finding a charity where more of the money goes to meet your giving goals.
The Romans posted Caveat Emptor, or buyer beware, at the entrance to the marketplace. The warning is as true today as it was then. You are in the best position to protect yourself and your money from online, phone, and email predators. Take the time to evaluate before making purchases or sending money , and make sure you know where it is going. If you fall victim to a scam, contact law enforcement to file a report and be sure to provide any details or information you have that would help identify the scammer.