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Sheriff's Tips To Avoid Scams

Written By Editor on 5/2/23 | 5/2/23

DELHI, NY – Scammers target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across the nation. We all like to think that it’ll never happen to us or our loved ones, although if we are not cautious, anyone can fall victim to these ruthless scammers.    

Scams tend to succeed in part, because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re least expecting it. 

Scammers are getting smarter and taking advantage of new technology, new products or services and major events to create believable stories that will convince you to give them your money and/or personal details. 

We offer the following tips and suggestions to help you become more aware and to help you protect yourself and your loved ones from scammers. 



Four Signs That It’s a Scam:

1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know. 

Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company, or even a charity asking for donations.

They use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So the name and number you see might not be real.

2. Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or You’ve won a PRIZE.

They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or you owe money. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer.

Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information.

Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.

3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.

Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.

They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.

4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

They often insist that you pay by using cryptocurrency, by wiring money through a company like MoneyGram or Western Union, or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back.

Listed below are some of the most common scams out there and some tips to help you stay safe:

Home Improvement Scams:

Check for a license where required (these counties have licensing requirements for home improvement contractors: Nassau, New York City, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester)

Ask for proof of insurance coverage (e.g. workers compensation, property, liability).

Ask for local references and call the references to see if they were satisfied with the work. If possible, visually inspect examples of the contractor's work; do not rely on photographs provided by the contractor.

Get at least three written estimates, especially if the job is big.

Ask about experience and training.

Inquire whether the project requires a permit, and who is responsible for obtaining it. Consider double-checking with local authorities about whether a permit is required. Get a written contact. Under the law, contracts for jobs costing $500 or more must be in writing, but it's best to get a written contract in all cases. Make sure the contract includes:

  • The approximate start date and completion date of the work, including any contingencies that would change the completion date

  • A specific description of the work and materials, including brands, model numbers and other identifying information, along with the price

  • A requirement that the contractor will comply with all applicable laws, regulations and codes, and that no work will be done until the contractor has obtained all necessary permits.

  • Keep in mind that the law gives you three days to cancel a home improvement contract. Cancellation must be in writing and should be sent to the contractor by certified mail, return receipt requested

Nigerian Money Offer Scams:

Nigerian money offer scams involve a letter or e-mail that offers the recipient the "opportunity" to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author is trying to transfer out of Nigeria. The message instructs the recipient to send money to the author in Nigeria for a variety of reasons, such as payment of taxes or legal fees. In actuality, the millions of dollars do not exist and the victim eventually ends up with nothing but loss.

Scammers have also been known to use the victim's personally identifying information to drain bank accounts and run up credit card charges until the victim's assets are taken in their entirety.

Be aware that these scams are well-known and there may be variations used by con artists

  • Note that these promises are never true

  • Once you are on the hook, they'll never let you go

  • Be wary of offers to send you an "advance" on your "commission"

  • Never provide your bank account or other financial information

  • Don't agree to travel anywhere to meet these people

  • Remember that these are scam artists/criminals

  • If they get your money, you'll never get it back


Medical Device Scam:

Seniors have reported receiving unsolicited prerecorded messages, known as “robocalls,” offering free medical alert devices, along with money saving coupons. When answered, the message urges consumers to press 1 to receive a free device by providing an address and credit card information. Pressing 1 puts the consumer through to a live operator, who uses scare tactics to elicit personal and financial information from the consumer. The message also offers the option of pressing another number to opt out of future calls. Pressing that number, however, alerts the scammers to a working phone number, which can be used for future scam calls.


Grandparent Scam:

These scammers call or email seniors asking for money. They impersonate loved ones who are in some kind of trouble and need cash. Often, the calls are made in the middle of the night, so the adult answering the phone may be disoriented.  These con artists seem credible because they have become sophisticated in finding and using personal information from social media and Internet searches.  In some cases, the scammer impersonates a police officer, a lawyer, or a doctor who is calling on behalf of the relative in trouble. In all cases, the scammers request that money be sent immediately and usually through a wire transfer.

Ghosting Scam:

“Ghosting” is a form of identity theft. Identity thieves obtain personal information about deceased persons from obituaries, funeral homes, hospitals, stolen death certificates, and online web sites. Once they have the information, especially Social Security numbers, they use it to establish credit and open accounts, take out loans, receive benefits, or even collect tax refunds filed under the stolen identity. Family members of the deceased are not responsible for charges resulting from this kind of identity theft as long as their names are not on the stolen accounts.  Remember, it’s important to inform the Social Security Administration of a death.

Jury Duty Scam:

These scammers, pretend to be law enforcement officers or court officials, where they contact individuals to inform them that they have failed to report to jury duty. As a consequence, victims are told to pay a fine by credit card to avoid arrest.  In many cases, when the victims inform the callers that they didn’t receive any jury duty information, callers emphasize citizen responsibility to appear for jury duty whether or not a notice has been received. These scammers also coerce victims into providing personal information, such as social security numbers and date of birth, which can then be used for identity theft or other fraudulent activity.



Funeral Notification Scam:

The “funeral notifications” scam involves emails, which include the subject line "funeral notification," to deceptively inform recipients of an upcoming farewell ceremony in remembrance of a friend or loved one. These emails appear to be sent from legitimate funeral homes and instruct recipients to click on a link for “more detailed information.”  The link sends victims to a third party web site where malware, or “malicious software,” is downloaded.  This software causes computer havoc and allows scammers to gain access to the user’s computer information, which can then be used in fraudulent activity. If you receive such an email, delete it immediately.

Sweepstakes Scam:

Many sweepstakes, unfortunately, are run by con artists who are looking to access your personal information or tap into your accounts. These scammers entice consumers with various prize offers and then ask that you share personal information or that you pay a fee to enter the sweepstakes. The most common of these scams targets seniors, who pay the supposed fee and receive fake prize winning checks, which are deposited into consumer bank accounts. Unfortunately, the checks are then rejected as counterfeit. The con artists, meanwhile, have pocketed the money collected for fees or taxes on the prizes. Remember, you never have to pay fees to participate in legitimate sweepstakes.

IRS Imposter Scam:

Be alert to this “phishing” scam, one of the most sophisticated telephone scams to date. In fact, according the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), at least 20,000 taxpayers have been targeted. By impersonating IRS agents, these phone scammers demand immediate payment of overdue taxes from victims via debit card or wire transfer to avoid being arrested. These scammers may even know the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number. In addition, victims report that scammers follow up with emails after a call. If you receive an unexpected call from the IRS, it is most likely a scam. Many times it’s difficult to determine if the call is a scam, but remember the IRS generally sends out prior notification of any action in the mail and never requires immediate payment over the phone.  When in doubt, hang up and call back using a number that the IRS advertises on a government website or in the phonebook. 

Free Grant Scam:

Beware of fraudulent grants promised in print or over the phone. In one instance, free grants are advertised in the classified sections of newspapers and magazines. The advertisement claims that readers qualify to receive free grants to pay for anything from home repairs, college expenses, unpaid bills, or home business expenses. In other instances, people report receiving phone calls from someone impersonating a representative of a government agency or organization. These callers use official sounding names and promise free grants because taxes have been paid on time or because they can be used for debt relief. They all follow the same script – congratulating you for your eligibility and then asking for personal and financial information. They confirm name, mailing address, and then ask for the name of your bank, account numbers, and routing numbers, to be used only to withdraw money for a processing fee. Regardless of the method used, the claim is the same – guaranteed acceptance of your application and the promise that you do not have to repay the money. Remember, the grant offer is a fraud.  The scammers only want access to the funds in your accounts.

Scam Prevention Tips:

  1. If you receive an unsolicited phone calls, hang up without pressing a key.  If you do take the call, be sure to identify the caller and the company represented AND always get a phone number for the business.

  2. Never provide personal or financial information over the phone. This includes your name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, and Medicare number.

  3. Contact your telephone provider to block “robocall” numbers. Avoid paying for blocking services since robocall numbers displayed on caller IDs change frequently.

  4. Install a firewall and anti-virus/anti-spyware software to protect your email account from being used by scammers. Also keep all of your software updated.

  5. Do not open attachments from strangers or any emails that seem suspicious. Attachments sometimes contain programs that allow scammers to gain access to your computer.

  6. Avoid listing birth date, maiden name, or other personal identifiers of loved ones in obituaries as such information is useful to identity thieves.

  7. Do not click or open files in unfamiliar emails to avoid downloading unwanted malware.

  8. Do not respond to guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution.

  9. The IRS usually initiates first contact about unpaid taxes through U.S. mail, never by phone or email.

  10. The IRS never asks for payment using a wire transfer or a pre-paid debit card.

  11. Call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040 if you think that you may owe taxes.

  12. Protect your personal information by storing it in a safe and secure place. Do not keep important account numbers or data in purses, wallets, or smartphones.

  13. Remember that phone calls can be deceiving. Scammers now use sophisticated technology to manipulate their area code in caller ID systems.

  14. Do not pay money for a “free” government grant. Anytime you are asked to make a payment to receive a government grant, it is a scam.

  15. If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of something that seems to good to be true, contact a competent & trusted friend and/or family member or your local law enforcement agency.  




The following information is shared from The Federal Trade Commission-Consumer Advice Division 

What to do if you were scammed:

Scammers can be very convincing. They call, email, and send us text messages trying to get our money or sensitive personal information — like our Social Security or account numbers. And they're good at what they do. Here’s what to do if you paid someone you think is a scammer or gave them your personal information or access to your computer or phone. If you paid a scammer, your money might be gone already. No matter how you paid, it’s always worth asking the company you used to send the money if there’s a way to get it back.

IF YOU PAID A SCAMMER:

Did you pay with a credit card or debit card?

Contact the company or bank that issued the credit card or debit card. Tell them it was a fraudulent charge. Ask them to reverse the transaction and give you your money back.

Did a scammer make an unauthorized transfer from your bank account?

Contact your bank and tell them it was an unauthorized debit or withdrawal. Ask them to reverse the transaction and give you your money back.

Did you pay with a gift card?

Contact the company that issued the gift card. Tell them it was used in a scam and ask them to refund your money. Keep the gift card itself, and the gift card receipt.

Did you send a wire transfer through a company like Western Union or MoneyGram?

Contact the wire transfer company. Tell them it was a fraudulent transfer. Ask them to reverse the wire transfer and give you your money back.

  • MoneyGram at 1-800-926-9400

  • Western Union at 1-800-448-1492

  • Ria (non-Walmart transfers) at 1-877-443-1399

  • Ria (Walmart2Walmart and Walmart2World transfers) at 1-855-355-2144

Did you send a wire transfer through your bank?

Contact your bank and report the fraudulent transfer. Ask them to reverse the wire transfer and give you your money back.

Did you send money through a money transfer app?

Report the fraudulent transaction to the company behind the money transfer app and ask them to reverse the payment. If you linked the app to a credit card or debit card, report the fraud to your credit card company or bank. Ask them to reverse the charge.

Did you pay with cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency payments typically are not reversible. Once you pay with cryptocurrency, you can only get your money back if the person you paid sends it back. But contact the company you used to send the money and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask them to reverse the transaction, if possible.

Did you send cash?

If you sent cash by U.S. mail, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455 and ask them to intercept the package. To learn more about this process, visit USPS Package Intercept: The Basics.

If you used another delivery service, contact them as soon as possible. 


IF YOU GAVE A SCAMMER YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION:

Did you give a scammer your Social Security number?

Go to IdentityTheft.gov to see what steps to take, including how to monitor your credit.

Did you give a scammer your username and password?

Create a new, strong password. If you use the same password anywhere else, change it there, too.


IF A SCAMMER HAS ACCESS TO YOUR COMPUTER OR PHONE:

Does a scammer have remote access to your computer?

Update your computer’s security software, run a scan, and delete anything it identifies as a problem. Then take other steps to protect your personal information.

Did a scammer take control of your cell phone number and account?

Contact your service provider to take back control of your phone number. Once you do, change your account password.

Also check your credit card, bank, and other financial accounts for unauthorized charges or changes. If you see any, report them to the company or institution. Then go to IdentityTheft.gov to see what steps you should take.


Report a Scam to the FTC:

When you report a scam, the FTC can use the information to build cases against scammers, spot trends, educate the public, and share data about what is happening in your community. If you experienced a scam — or even spotted one, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Respectfully, 

Craig S. DuMond 



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