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If it's too good to be true, it probably is

Staff writer

Although some scams are not easy to detect until a victim receives a bank statement, others can be warded off.

What it takes is thinking about what a caller or email sender is asking you to do and being cautious.

Marion County has seen a few incidents of credit card skimmers being installed at service stations to steal credit card information.

When a cardholder discovers that card information is being used at an unfamiliar or unusual business, it should be reported to the cardholder’s bank and to police.

It also should be reported to three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The bureaus will add a fraud alert to your credit report.

Card skimmers have been at stations in Hillsboro and Florence.

Other would-be scammers call potential victims.

Victims should contact banks and law enforcement.

When a would-be victim is too wise to be fooled, authorities contend, no crime is committed and law enforcement cannot do anything. But if a person is taken in, police should be able to investigate.

“There’s not a whole lot we can do if they aren’t a victim,” Undersheriff Larry Starkey said.

Hillsboro officer Duane McCarty said a popular scam is for someone to email or call and say he or she is from the Internal Revenue Service and if the person they contact doesn’t pay a “fine” or “penalty,” the person will be arrested.

IRS doesn’t call people. The agency sends letters.

Another common scam is to call saying a child or grandchild is in jail and gift cards must be sent to bail them out.

Starkey has been contacted himself and told he had a package that could not be delivered until he provided the caller with personal information.

“I know when I’m getting something,” Starkey said. “If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.”

Anybody who wants you to send gift cards is probably a scammer, Starkey said.

“Supposedly, that can’t be tracked,” he said.

If someone contacted by a scammer contacts the scammer back, the scammer usually starts pressing the would-be victim to promptly comply.

“They don’t want to give you time to talk to anybody,” Starkey said.

People should be suspicious when a message contains misspelled words or poor grammar, Starkey said.

Common scammer techniques are to pretend to be from a known agency or organization; claim there is a problem or a prize; pressure the intended victim; and ask for a specific payment form, such as gift cards.

Seniors often are targeted by scammers impersonating Social Security employees or the Office of Inspector General.

The inspector general’s office said these fraudsters might call, email, text, write, or message on social media.

They might use the name of a person who really works there and might send a picture or attachment as “proof,” the office said.

Red flags that the person actually is a scammer include threatening to suspend or seize a bank account; claiming to need personal information or payment to activate a cost-of-living adjustment or other benefit increase; press you to take immediate action; asking you to pay with gift cards, prepaid debit cards, cryptocurrency, wire transfer, or by mailed cash; offering to move your money to a “protected” bank account; or messaging you on social media.

Sometimes scammers call using spoofed government phone numbers or numbers from local law enforcement.

Increasingly, scammers are using artificial intelligence as a tactic to trick people.

Last modified Jan. 11, 2024

 

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