The Amesbury Beat: Be wary of possible phone scams

 

I had a nice chuckle the other day upon returning home as I discovered a message on the answering machine.

A gentleman with a bit of an accent, from Publishers Clearing House, notified me that I had won $5 million!

He asked us to call back and claim the prize as soon as possible, so I checked the Caller ID and found the number originated in Trinidad.

Since I don’t really think the Clearing House is operating in South America, I never entered the contest and was honestly too cheap to risk making a toll call; I elected not to return his call. Of course, $5 million would make for a nice retirement but when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Scams like this are out of control and reach every neighborhood in America. You would never knowingly let a criminal into your home through the front door but today, they use the telephone, internet and even couriers like the U.S. mail daily.

While some attempts are crude and easily foiled, others are well-rehearsed and orchestrated. Many foreign nations encourage their citizens to steal American money; in addition to the con artists here. The dollar bill does not go far, especially during challenging times, but money can travel far and quickly thanks to technology.

Online access to a bank account, misuse of a credit card, electronic wire services and those codes on the back of prepaid debit cards are money in the bank; not yours, but theirs.

It’s important to be aware of the warning signs when you receive any type of correspondence today. First of all, consider the origin of the offer and be very wary of their promises and requests.

Just because they claim to represent a company you’ve heard of, doesn’t mean they really are. Don’t rely on the information they give you; it’s common for groups to set up fake websites and telephone numbers.

Everyone values money and crooks know how appealing a grand prize can be; only the government collects taxes, your taxes and fees will be deducted before you receive any winnings.

Thieves will also be looking for anything you may be willing to give them. Never provide personal information to an unsolicited caller, avoid verifying your information even when they have some of the numbers, and don’t agree to have money automatically taken from an account.

They love to make threats, claiming you may even be arrested or inject urgency into the offer: “Act now or you are out of luck.”

Truthfully, if you act now, you’ll have bad luck and be out of money. Some of today’s scams are twists on crimes, which have been successful for years; take a moment to think twice before you pay a costly price.

Lastly, in this year of craziness, one tradition is going to happen!

Trick-or-treating will be held in Amesbury on Saturday, Oct. 31, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. As always, it is an optional event, so if you are nervous about distributing candy, turn outside lights off.

I’ll have some safety tips in a couple of weeks but wanted to let readers know as soon as I did.

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