The Smithville Police Department is urging citizens to be vigilant to avoid becoming the victim of scams
"As reports of scams continue to increase at an alarming rate, I would like the community to be aware of the top scams that we are encountering. Sadly our senior citizens and the unaware are being victimized. Unfortunately prosecution proves difficult most of the time due to jurisdiction issues. I know people work hard for their money so hopefully this information will be helpful in protecting against these predators," said Captain Steven Leffew.
Here are a few scams of which you should be aware:
Fake check scams:
Fake check scams are clever ploys designed to steal your money. You can avoid becoming a victim by recognizing how the scam works.
•There are many variations of the fake check scam. It could start with someone offering to buy something you advertised, pay you to do work at home, give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you’ve supposedly won, or pay the first installment on the money that you’ll receive for agreeing to have money in a foreign country transferred to your bank account for safe keeping.
•Fake check scammers hunt for victims. They scan newspapers and online advertisements for people listing items for sale, and check postings on online job sites from people seeking employment. They place their own ads with phone numbers or email addresses for people to contact them. They also buy lists on the black market of people who have been previously scammed.
•They often claim to be in another country. The scammers say it’s too difficult and complicated to send you the money directly from their country, so they’ll arrange for someone in the US to send you a check.
•They tell you to wire money to them after you’ve deposited the check. If you’re selling something, they say they’ll pay you by having someone in the US who owes them money send you a check. It will be for more than the sale price; you deposit the check, keep what you’re owed, and wire the rest to them. If it’s part of a work-at-home scheme, they may claim that you’ll be processing checks for their “clients.” You deposit the check and then wire them the money minus your “pay.” Or they may send you a check for more than your pay “by mistake” and ask you to wire them the excess.
•The checks are fake but they look very real. In fact, there have been cases where the bank tellers have been fooled. The companies whose names appear may be real but they have been dummied up on the checks without their knowledge.
•You don’t have to wait long to use the money but that doesn’t mean the check is good. Banks usually make the funds you deposit available quickly. But just because you can withdraw the money doesn’t mean the check is good. It may take several days for the forgery to be discovered.
•You are responsible for the checks you deposit. When the check bounces, the bank deducts the amount that was originally credited to your account. If there isn’t enough to cover it, the bank may be able to take money from other accounts or even sue you to recover the funds.
There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back. It’s a scam.
Prizes and Sweepstakes scam:
•Never pay to play. It’s illegal for a company to require you to buy something or pay a fee in order to win or claim a prize.
•Don’t believe that you have to give the company money for taxes on your prize. Taxes will be deducted from your winnings or you will pay them directly to the government.
•Guard your credit card and bank account numbers. No legitimate sweepstakes company will ask for this information. Your social security number may be required for tax reporting purposes if you have won. Do not provide that information unless you’re absolutely sure that you entered the contest and that you know the company operating it.
•Watch for imposters. Some con artist use company names that are identical or very similar to well known, legitimate sweepstakes operators.
•Be wary of offers to send you an “advance” on your “winnings.” Some con artist uses this ploy to build trust and get money from your bank. They send you a check for part of your “winnings” instructing you to deposit it and then wire payment to them for taxes, bonding or for some other purposes. Again, the check may clear because it may take several days for the forgery to be discovered. After you wire the money back, the check finally bounces and you are left responsible for the debt to the bank.
•Get it in writing. Legitimate sweepstakes companies will give you written information about how a contest works, including the odds of winning, the value of the prizes, the fact that no purchase is necessary and that buying something does not improve your chances of winning.
•Don’t be fooled by official looking advertisements. One clue that you haven’t really won is if a letter or envelope is sent at bulk mail rates. Meaning that thousands of other people are receiving the exact same thing.
•If you’re approached by an unfamiliar charity, check them out. Most states require charities to register with them and file annual reports showing how they use donations. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Giving Alliance also offers information about national charities or go to Give.org
•Ask for written information. Legitimate charities will be happy to provide details about what they do and will never insist that you act immediately.
•Beware of sound-alikes. Some scammers try to fool people by using very similar to those of legitimate, well known charities.
•Ask about the caller’s relation to the charity. The caller maybe a professional fundraiser but not even an employee or a volunteer.
•Be wary of request to support local police or firefighters. Some fraudulent fundraisers claim that donations will benefit local police or firefighters. If you’re not sure whether the charity is legitimate, contact your local police or fire department to verify the claims are true.
•Be especially cautious after natural or other disasters. Scammers love to take advantage of those situations to trick people who want to aid victims.
If you’re not sure whether a charity is legitimate, check it out with your state charities regulator or the BBB before you donate.
There are many other scams being conducted but these are the top three that the Smithville police department is encountering at this time, according to Captain Leffew.