MADERA COUNTY – Phone scams, cyber scams, mail scams … they’re a nuisance and especially menacing during the holiday season.
Since the beginning of this year, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office has received 150 fraud complaints. During the same time frame last year, Jan. 1 to Nov. 20, they received 216 fraud complaints.
The decrease in the number of cases reported may be a sign that people are starting to pay attention to fraud alerts routinely issued by the Sheriff’s Office. However, some citizens, especially the elderly, are still falling victim. A good number of the scams specifically target our senior citizens.
To help fight back, Sheriff Anderson is issuing the top 20 scams to strike Madera County in 2014. “Recognize what’s out there, so you don’t become a victim.”
1. Online Banking Scam: If you receive an email with a warning and request to open an attachment from what looks like a reputable financial institution, do NOT open it. Banks/credit card companies may issue alerts, but they do NOT include attachments. Delete the email and contact your financial institution directly.
2. Jury Scam: If someone contacts you, claiming to represent a law enforcement agency, stating that you owe money because you failed to appear for jury duty, hang up and call your local authorities.
3. Sweepstakes Scam: If you receive a call or a mailer informing you that you won a prize, but before you can claim it, you must send cash, do NOT respond. You never have to surrender money if you really won a prize.
4. Text Message Scam: If you receive a text message stating you are a winner, and to claim your prize you must click on a link, or call a number attached, don’t respond. The sender is phishing.
5. Online Ad Scam: If you receive a call from someone claiming that your credit card was rejected after placing an ad, hang up, notify the agency with whom you placed the ad, and also contact your credit card company.
6. DEA Agent Scam: If you get a call from someone claiming to be a United States Drug Enforcement Agent, claiming that you are subject to arrest for purchasing prescription medications online, hang up, and notify your local authorities.
7. Craigslist, eBay, Mary Kay Scams: If you receive a check, well above the asking price, do NOT cash it. The check is bogus.
8. Senior Citizen Unit Scam: If someone claiming to represent a Sweepstakes Senior Citizen Unit contacts you, hang up. They will try to convince you that you have won a prize, but in order to collect you have to send money. Again, NO legitimate company will ask you to surrender money or personal information in order to collect a prize.
9. Online Purchase Scam: When shopping on line through eBay or Craigslist, for example, make sure you are dealing with a legitimate seller, and not someone trying to con you out of cash. One victim, looking for a deal, thought he found it until he was instructed to go to a third-party website to complete the transaction. The item never existed, and authorities later discovered the so-called seller was operating out of Eastern Europe.
10. Grandkid Scam: If you receive a call from someone posing as your grandchild, and claims to be injured, or in jail, don’t be fooled. The caller will typically say, “I need cash and please don’t tell Mom or Dad.” Hang up and immediately contact your family.
11. IRS Scam: If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent the IRS informing you about a stimulus, or that you owe the government money, hang up. The IRS does NOT make house calls.
12. Grant Scam: If someone sends you a check, stating that you’ve been awarded a financial grant – and all you have to do is cash it, and wire back a commission fee – tear it up. The check is phony.
13. Do Not Call Scam: If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry, asking you for personal information in order to make sure you stop receiving unwanted solicitations, hang up. The caller is phishing.
14. Deployment Scam: If you receive an email from someone claiming to be stationed overseas, who needs your bank account information in order to store monetary funds for safekeeping, delete the message. The sender is phishing.
15. USAA Scam: If you receive an email from a someone claiming to represent USAA, advising you that due to several failed ATM withdrawal attempts, your account has been suspended, delete it, and contact USAA.
16. Your Credit Card Has Been Deactivated Scam – If you receive a letter, email, or even a phone call, warning you that your card has been deactivated due to a potential breach, and in order to reactive it, you must provide them with your account information, passwords, and other personal information, do NOT give out any information. The caller or sender is phishing.
17. Mystery Shopper Scam: If you receive a check with instructions to cash it, then spend the money at selected retailers, and wire back a portion of the original check, tear it up. The check is bogus.
18. Debt Collector Scam: If you receive a call from someone claiming you are in default of a loan, and you must wire money or face arrest, hang up. If you really do have a loan, call that financial institution, and make them aware of the call you received.
19. Tax Collector Scam: If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent the Tax Collector’s Office, who needs proof that you’ve paid your property taxes, hang up. The Treasure-Tax Collector’s Office does NOT make house calls.
20. Background Check Scam: If you receive a call from someone claiming to conduct background checks, and tells you that before he can proceed, he needs your personal information to verify that he has reached the right person, hang up. The caller is phishing.
Sheriff Anderson says there is no way to keep the scams from coming. Never let a stranger try to solicit money or personal information from you. Your best defense is to remain vigilant, and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
When it comes to fraud and identity theft, Anderson says you can never be too careful. Always review your monthly bank and credit card statements. If you find anything that seems suspicious, contact your financial institution immediately.
Don’t be fooled by look-alike websites. To learn more about how to protect your identity and receive your free annual credit report online, go to www.annualcreditreport.com, or copy and paste the following link in your internet address bar https://www.annualcreditreport.com/protectYourIdentity.action
You can follow the Sheriff’s latest posts and information on both Facebook facebook.com/MaderaSheriff and Twitter: twitter.com/MaderaSheriff