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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Phone scams on the rise again

  • The most recent scam involves”sweepstakes” representatives that makes contact by phone and informs the individual they have won $4 million and a new Mercedes Ben
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  • Detective Sergeant Phil Burnham of the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office contacted The Sun-Times to alert the public regarding an increase in phone scams in the area.  The most recent scam involves”sweepstakes” representatives that makes contact by phone and informs the individual they have won $4 million and a new Mercedes Benz. 
     
    One woman in the Greers Ferry area was recently a victim of this scam.  According to a report filed with the Sheriff’s Office, the scammer contacted the woman and informed her she had won the “Golden American Powerball” sweepstakes prize.  Having frequently participated in sweepstakes drawings, the woman assumed that she had finally won something.  The man asked for personal information, including the woman’s cell phone number.  He then informed the woman that she needed to pay $500 for delivery of the new Mercedes, to be paid with a pre-paid Greendot money card.  The woman followed his directions and waited for the car.  When it didn’t arrive on the designated day, she contacted the “sweepstakes” and was told she needed to send an additional $2000.  She gave them the money and when the car still didn’t arrive, she was told she needed to send another $6000, at which point she contacted the Sheriff’s Office.
     
    “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true,” said Burnham.  “We’ve had approximately 4-5 of these types of scams in the last 6 months, mostly originating out of Pakistan or Jamaica.  It is virtually impossible to track them down and the money is almost never recovered.  If you get a call like this, it will probably be a scam.  If they ask you to pay money to receive a prize, hang up the phone.”
     
    It should be added that these scams primarily target landline phones, though that doesn’t mean cell phones are immune from scammers.
     
    Another scam that has made its rounds involves calls to the elderly with an individual posing as that person’s grandchild.  Often, they even know the name of the grandchild of whom they are posing, which would indicate they have done at least minimal research on their intended victim.  They inform the senior that they are stuck in a Mexican jail and need money to be freed.  Because the scammer has enough information about the victim to act with a degree of familiarity and because of the “emergency” situation many Americans perceive of Mexican prisons, the elderly victim often sends the money as fast as possible to help their “grandchild”.  The Sheriff’s Office would like residents to be on alert for this type of scam also.
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    The FBI offers the following tips on telemarketing fraud:
     
    Telemarketing Fraud
    When you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud.
    Here are some warning signs of telemarketing fraud—what a caller may tell you:
    “You must act ‘now’ or the offer won’t be good.”
    “You’ve won a ‘free’ gift, vacation, or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges.
    “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.” You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.
    “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone.” The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.
    “You don’t need any written information about their company or their references.”
    “You can’t afford to miss this ‘high-profit, no-risk’ offer.”
    If you hear these or similar “lines” from a telephone salesperson, just say “no thank you” and hang up the telephone.
     
    Tips for Avoiding Telemarketing Fraud:
     
    It’s very difficult to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the telephone. Before you buy anything by telephone, remember:
    Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company. Legitimate businesses understand that you want more information about their company and are happy to comply.
    Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity. If you get brochures about costly investments, ask someone whose financial advice you trust to review them. But, unfortunately, beware—not everything written down is true.
    Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. Unfortunately, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.
    Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. Some con artists give out false names, telephone numbers, addresses, and business license numbers. Verify the accuracy of these items.
    Page 3 of 3 - Before you give money to a charity or make an investment, find out what percentage of the money is paid in commissions and what percentage actually goes to the charity or investment.
    Before you send money, ask yourself a simple question. “What guarantee do I really have that this solicitor will use my money in the manner we agreed upon?”
    Don’t pay in advance for services. Pay services only after they are delivered.
    Be wary of companies that want to send a messenger to your home to pick up money, claiming it is part of their service to you. In reality, they are taking your money without leaving any trace of who they are or where they can be reached.
    Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you to make a snap decision.
    Don’t pay for a “free prize.” If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.
    Before you receive your next sales pitch, decide what your limits are—the kinds of financial information you will and won’t give out on the telephone.
    Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor. It’s never rude to wait and think about an offer.
    Never respond to an offer you don’t understand thoroughly.
    Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.
    Be aware that your personal information is often brokered to telemarketers through third parties.
    If you have been victimized once, be wary of persons who call offering to help you recover your losses for a fee paid in advance.
    If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies.

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