ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County Sheriff James A. McVicker is warning residents to be on the lookout for telephones scams.
Many Bladen County residents have recently been getting phone calls on both their cell phones and home phones telling them they have won a prize and wanting them to send money to receive their prize.
“Any time you get asked to give money to receive a prize you should be leery,” said McVicker. “We all have to be very protective of our personal information such as date of birth, social security number, bank account, or debit card number and pin numbers. We want everyone to be safe and use good judgment when giving out personal information over the phone and remember if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.
“The FBI has a web page devoted to identity theft and scams, the web address is: https:// www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud,” he added.
Following are some of the most common scams that the FBI investigates and tips to help prevent you from being victimized:
— 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.
Some of the warning signs of telemarketing fraud (what a caller may tell you) includes: “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 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;” and “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 to avoid 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; 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; don’t pay for a “free prize.”
Also: 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 information about a fraud, report it to state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies.
“There is nothing wrong with being cautious,” McVicker said. “You can always contact the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office at 910-862-6960 if you have any questions about a telephone solicitation.”