SIDNEY — In most cases when an unsolicited call, text or mail is received, a scam is evident, but sometimes they are difficult to spot.
Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart is offering some suggestions during his weekly interview to avoid being taken advantage of by scammers.
“The federal government has a website to help those dealing with identity theft,” Lenhart said. “It’s https://www.identitytheft.gov/; go there and they will help with a place to start.”
Often, Lenhart said, scammers represent themselves as someone you trust, such a government official, family member, a charity, or a company you do business with on a regular basis.
Listed below are some warning signs Lenhart is providing to help the public recognize a scam:
• An unexpected call or text from someone pretending to be a trusted individual or business. Follow up with the person personally.
• Online solicitation. Slow down and review the company online.
• Don’t believe your caller ID. Numbers can altered using certain apps to display a familiar number. Hang up immediately once you know the call is fake.
• Up-front payment to deliver on a promise or a prize. Don’t pay for anything up front, no matter what you are promised. The federal Trade Commission can help at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/ to file a consumer complaint or learn about scams.
• Use credit cards for transactions for significant built-in fraud protection. Stay away from using gift cards, that must have funds reloaded, and Western Union or MoneyGrams, as they are a struggle for law enforcement to trace.
• Online dating scams. The scam starts online, then goes to corresponding over the phone and via email. Then suddenly the conversation turns the relationship to appearing more serious, but the other person is out of the area or country and wants money sent.
• Before you give money or personal information to anyone, talk to someone you trust. Con artists wants a decision made in a hurry. They may even make threats or say they are in harm and need financial help. Ask your bank or a law enforcement official before giving money.
• Robo calls. Hang up immediately. Any response could filter your number to receive even more calls.
• Free trial offers. Be skeptical. Often people do not read the fine print which requires action to cancel the offer or your account will be charged after the trial offer expires.
• An unexpected check in the mail. It says to deposit the check at your bank. This gives the scammer the ability to drain the account. Lenhart advises that if you have never had business with the solicitor, don’t cash those type of checks.
• The “grandkid scam.” A message is received from a grandchild saying they need money for something such as bail or medical expenses, etc., and not to tell mom or dad. Lenhart suggests to stop and follow up with the child or their parents.
“I think parents and grandparents get scared and you want to help your kids. You want to protect them as much as you can. And you are playing right into a scammer’s hands when you do stuff like that,” he said.
“Use credit cards as much as you can, because it has fraud protection built-in,” Lenhart said. “Do online searching (to research solicitors). Don’t hesitate to ask the normal bank that you do business with. Ask law enforcement. We will help you as much as we can. But the big thing is don’t be in a hurry (to give money) or be threatened by them or them threatening themselves, so to speak.”
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.