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Sheriff Warns Of Fraud Via Phones And Email

MADERA COUNTY – The Sheriff’s Office has issued two fraud alerts in an effort to keep residents safe from scams related to land-lines, cell phones and computers.

The first is an alert about a new scam using the name of the Publishers Clearinghouse. Predators are now said to be calling potential victims with instructions to send cash by way of Green Dot cards in order to collect their supposed prize.

Earlier this week, the Sheriff’s Office says, a Madera County resident lost thousands of dollars before realizing the whole investment was scam. Sheriff John Anderson asserts that no legitimate company is going to ask an individual to pay in order to claim a prize.

“If someone claiming to represent Publishers Clearing House, or any sweepstakes outfit, offers you a prize for a fee, hang up! It’s scam.”

The Madera County Sheriff’s Department offers five simple ways to spot a scam:

  1. If you are required to pay in order to win – it’s a scam.
  2. If you are asked to load a Green Dot Money Pak or wire money to cover any prize earning expenses – it’s a scam.
  3. If you receive a phone call or letter in advance of Publishers Clearing House “Prize Patrol” knocking on your door – it’s a scam.
  4. If anyone contacts you asking for personal information – it’s a scam.
  5. If you receive a friend request on Facebook from anyone claiming you won a prize – it’s a scam.

In addition to the Publishers Clearninghouse fake “prize patrol,” Sheriff Anderson is warning cell phone users to beware of “spoof” emails, text messages and fraudulent calls.

The Sheriff’s Office received a complaint on Wednesday, Sept. 10, from a citizen regarding a message left on his cell phone. The message said the victim earned $37, and came from what he mistakenly thought was his cell phone provider, Verizon. Email and text messaging scams typically use popular brand names that include banks, insurance providers and even cell phone service providers.

The messages intentionally deceive citizens into thinking the emails and texts originate from a legitimate web address. Rather, the web site they want you to click on is a fake. Perpetrators might even include a call-back phone number.

Do not call that number, warns the Sheriff’s Office, and do not visit these websites. If you receive a message that looks like a company with whom you do business, call your provider, by dialing the telephone number attached to your plan, not the one sent in the message.

Fake links may appear valid, as it did on the Madera County victim’s cell phone. The best defense is to go directly to the company’s website through your browser, NOT through any links sent in messages.

Verizon offers examples of “phishing” and messaging scams:

1. They often use generic greetings, like “Dear (company name) Customer.”
2. They may lure you in by sending you a questionable balance, warning that someone recently updated your account, or announcing a special offer that must be claimed quickly.
3. They may scare you into responding by stating your account is in jeopardy if you do not update your account immediately.

Ultimately, the Sheriff’s Office wants residents of Madera County to remain vigilant and exercise caution with all communication, whether via land-line, cellular device or email.

Visit the Madera County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook.

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