As Sheriff, when I want to notify my partners in law enforcement that I’m looking for someone I put out a what we call, a “BOLO” (be on the lookout).
Today I’m putting out a BOLO for you to address some common challenges in your everyday life.
These are some common examples of scams and schemes that you need to be aware of.
Online Auction Site Scams
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Items sold at drastically reduced prices are often stolen. Example:
•You make a purchase online and agree to meet in person to pay with cash. The seller could rob the victim of their cash and potentially causing bodily harm and obviously the receipt of the item never occurs and fortunately the only thing you’ve lost is your money.
•You find a rental property online and meet with the person who placed the ad. Typically, you sign a bogus rental agreement, turn over your cash money and get the key to the house that the individual never had possession of who is a scammer with the potential of causing you bodily harm if things don’t go his or her way.
Identity theft and
theft of information
•You fill out an online form or handwritten credit card application, rental agreement, etc., from a company or an individual you are not familiar with. Potentially, the form is fraudulent, and you have just provided enough information for you to become a victim of identity theft.
•Credit card information can be stolen during an online hack or through devices placed on legal machines like ATM’s that are designed to extract personal information linked to your credit or ATM card. Be very suspicious of devices that are affixed to ATM machines that appears to be an “add-on” to the machine. If you suspect one exist, contact the bank or the retailer where the machine is placed.
•Once a suspect steals your personal information, they can create accounts, obtain credit in your name, or create fraudulent credit/bank cards and you may be held responsible. It’s not uncommon for an unsuspecting homeowner to have second mortgages obtained on their property or even listed for sale in someone else’s name.
Advance pay scams
Advance pay scams are one of the most common types of confidence tricks. You are asked for a small sum of money with the promise of a large pay out in the end. The scam typically involves promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money in return for a small up-front payment, which the scammer claims will be used to obtain the larger sum. If the victim makes the payment, the scammer simply disappears with your money.
•Ponzi is a form of fraud that lures many investors and pays profits to “early investors” with funds from “more recent investors.” Named after Italian businessman Charles Ponzi, the scheme leads victims to believe that profits are coming from legitimate business activities, product sales or successful investments and they remain unaware that early investors are the source of profits. A small amount of money is taken from many people with the promise of a higher-than-normal rate of return. The victim will be asked to solicit funds from friends and family members.
People lose a lot of money to phone scams, sometimes their life savings. Scammers have figured out countless ways to cheat you out of your money over the phone. In some scams they act friendly and helpful, and others, they may threaten or try to scare you. One thing you can count on is that a phone scammer will try to get your money and or your personal information to commit identity theft as well.
•Telemarketers offer great vacations or discounted products, and once the victim provides credit card information or bank details, the nightmare begins. Unfortunately, you are not likely to receive anything in return. As a bonus to the scammers, you have just provided them with enough information for identity theft as well.
•The caller might say you were selected and you’ve won a lottery. But you must pay some amount up-front to get the prize. It’s not a prize, it’s a scam.
•Scammers might pretend to be a member of law enforcement. They might say you will be arrested or fined for a crime you have no knowledge of if you don’t pay over the phone with a credit or debit card right away. If not, you should expect to be arrested.
•Scammers might identify themselves as IRS agents requesting a credit card or bank information to satisfy an old tax liability. Remember, the IRS never contacts taxpayers requesting payments over the telephone. Request of this nature are always through the U.S. Postal Service.
•You don’t need to decide now … Most legitimate businesses will give you time to think their offer over. Most often they will, upon request, provide you with written information about the offer before asking you to commit. Take your time don’t get pressured into deciding on the spot.
•Scammers will often ask you to pay in a way that makes it hard, if not impossible, for you to get your money back. Wiring money, putting money on a gift card, prepaid card or using a money transfer application is probably not a good idea. Anyone who asked you to pay that way is potentially a scammer.
To further assist you and your family in protecting yourself against unwanted phone calls and solicitations, consider the following:
“The National Do Not Call” registry was created to stop unwanted calls. It’s free to register your home or cell phone number. If you’ve already added your phone number to the registry and you are still getting unwanted calls, odds are the calls are potentially from scammers. To learn more about the National Do Not Call registry go to the following who U.S. Government website at www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 where you will also be able to register if you have not already done so.
Scammers are criminals and if you think they are above physically injuring you or your family, think again. Their ambition is to steal your money at all costs and the use of physical force is in their playbook. Be very cautious and suspicious in dealing with strangers.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to call my office’s non-emergency telephone number (936) 654-4367 for assistance or in any emergency immediately call 911.
Greg Capers is sheriff of San Jacinto County.
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