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Trust your gut and don’t fall for scams

Staff Report • Jan 30, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Local law enforcement officials are warning area residents to be on the lookout for con artists posing as Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes employees. These scammers are victimizing elderly residents.

Their latest victim was a 77-year-old Carter County woman, who said she had received a phone call informing her she had won $1 million and a Mercedes-Benz. She was instructed to send a $500 check to get the process started. Later, she was told to send an additional $150, as well as another $65 to a man in Jamaica.

Local residents also need to be on the lookout for an identity fraud scam that involves extended car warranties. The thieves use postcards, emails and phone calls to sell overpriced extended auto warranties. Some of the mailings look like bona fide notices from a car dealer or automaker.

They include a toll-free number that consumers are urged to call immediately. Consumers who do call the number are pressured to buy an extended warranty plan (that is, in fact, worthless) and are asked to divulge personal financial information.

This is just one of many popular scams that bilk honest people of their savings and good credit records. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. That includes winning a jackpot in a lottery you have never purchased a ticket for, or receiving an inheritance from a relative in South Africa you have never heard of.

Versions of both of these scams have made their way into local email inboxes. They are easy to spot because they promise the recipient lots of money for doing nothing more than disclosing their private information, such as Social Security and bank account numbers.

Don’t be taken in by these scammers. Never give out your personal information over the phone or Internet unless you have initiated the contact.

Government agencies, banks and financial companies do not communicate about personal information via email, or ask for passwords, personal identification numbers or other private information about financial accounts unless you contact them.

As we’ve said in this space many times before, a bit of healthy skepticism might help prevent you from falling victim to a con artist. If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t legitimate, you’re probably right.

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