|By Pallavi Agarwal, Highlands Today, Sebring, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The list of fraudsters looking to make a quick buck out of unsuspecting victims goes on, and no one knows that better than
While some of the scams have become fixtures -- aka The Nigerian Scam where someone overseas claims to be in distress, often through an email in very stilted, tell-tale English -- there are some complaints reported in recent days, which may raise eyebrows for sheer chutzpah.
In the latest scam alert, the sheriff's office is warning residents about receiving complaints from people who have received a call from someone claiming to be a lieutenant with the
The caller tells folks they have missed jury duty and a warrant has been issued for their arrest, Hays explained.
"They continue to say that if you call 863-464-0669 (they have recorded the answering machine to say
Hays tells people who encounter situations like this to stop, consider and use some common sense: Those who miss jury duty will not be notified by phone, and if a warrant is issued for someone's arrest, they cannot pay on a credit card and get out of it.
While this might seem a wild scam born out of someone's active imagination, it turns out it's not new.
"We have seen this scam previously, however, this is the first time that the scammers have identified themselves as
Scams may be recycled now and then with variations, but they are all the same, Hays maintained.
"They might be a little different but they're still the same scam," she said. "It might be a
She has a three-point rule to identity scams:
If it is too good to be true, it is. "You don't win a lottery you didn't enter. If you have to pay ahead to receive a prize, it is a scam," she said.
There is a sense of urgency. You are told to do it today. The scammers talk fast; they get you upset, Hays said.
There is a sense of secrecy.
Her advice to folks is not to get upset or nervous when they encounter such situations and use basic common sense.
"Some owners have been directed to obtain a
He reiterated what Hays said: "My advice to everyone is to take a second and think about what the caller is saying and what they are requesting."
If it is the
"Be suspicious of all calls that indicate any need for payment or request for donations. Only donate to reputable organizations," he said. "Not every call asking for cancer research donations is legitimate. Be careful where you send your money. When in doubt, contact your local law enforcement agency."
While scammers target people of all age groups, the elderly seem to be especially vulnerable, Hays said.
A recent widow or widower may be contacted by someone claiming their spouse bought a life insurance policy, which is behind a couple of payments. If they are paid up, they are told, they will be able to claim the insurance policy.
"It's tragic," Adams said.
It's a very vulnerable time for the grieving spouse, he said, and it's not greed that may make them prey but that "they are grieving and they are still trying to process information."
Hays asked those who have become a victim of identity theft or have lost money in a scam to file a report with a law enforcement agency.
But those who have been solicited by a scammer can file an online complaint at http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a partnership between the
The IC3 accepts online Internet crime complaints from either the victim or from a third party to the complainant.
Hays said the local sheriff's office has worked with IC3 investigators on sting operations but could not elaborate.
The center builds the complaints it receives into referrals, and forwards them to local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies for more investigation and, eventually, prosecution.
"In addition to helping law enforcement build cases for prosecution, the IC3 uses the complaint information to detect emerging trends and proactively increase public awareness of the Internet fraud," the center adds on its web site.
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