How to tell it’s a SCAM and how to protect yourself

WALHALLA, SC (WSPA) – There are a lot of of scams running in the area and the Oconee Co. Sheriff’s Office wants you to know about them and how to protect yourself.

THE CURRENT SCAMS

· IRS calling to collect money. THE IRS WILL NEVER CALL YOU

· Duke Energy says your service will be cut off due to an overdue power bill

· Security Co. working with the Sheriff’s Office trying to sell free security systems with a monthly fee.

· A letter in the mail claiming you won $1.56 million dollars and all that was required for the citizen to claim their money was to return a documentation acceptance form verifying their name and address and to enclose $20 either in cash, a check or a money order.

WHAT TO DO

Just hang up.

If you get a call from an organization or a business and says that you owe money and you think it is a scam, then hang up and contact that business or organization to verify that they have tried to contact you regarding a past due bill or money owed.

TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF

• Individuals who would like to report IRS scams are asked to go online to the website of the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration at http://www.tigta.gov and look for the yellow box at the top of the page. That box contains information on I.R.S. scams, including a link that will allow you to fill out a report if you have received an I.R.S. scam calls. If you owe back taxes, the IRS will send you a notice by mail but never call you directly. You can also contact the Internal Revenue Service directly to check the validity of the claims as you have a right to appeal.

• Also, citizens can Google a phone number they receive to see if that phone number has been associated with fraudulent activity. Scammers use a technique called Caller I.D. spoofing to make it appear that they are calling from a legitimate number. It is normally a good idea never to call the number back that the scammer gives you or the phone number that appears on your caller id. By calling back or providing other information, such as your address, could potentially open you up to be scammed more.

• Scammers will often become angry if you question their actions and will often times play on your emotions and fears. Do not allow them to do this. Take a deep breath and calm down and understand what is going on.

• Legitimate businesses will never ask or demand that payment be made with a prepaid card. This is a sure sign of a scam. Once the PIN number of a prepaid card is given, the scammers can access the funds on that card and it is virtually impossible to recover those funds.

• In regards to disconnection of utilities for a home or business, those customers will receive a notification in advance that their utilities are being disconnected, sometimes in one’s power bills. There will never be a notification that one’s utilities will be disconnected within an hour’s time, for example.

• In regards to various law enforcement scams that the Sheriff’s Office has heard about, law enforcement officers do have the right to arrest individuals with outstanding warrants. However, law enforcement officers will not contact anyone saying that arrest warrants will be recalled if someone pays a fine over the phone. There is also a scam that has occurred in which citizens are called by individuals claiming to be law enforcement saying that the citizens have missed court and need to pay a fine over the phone or risk being arrested. All fines for warrants or traffic tickets or court fines will not be handled by a law enforcement officer but will be handled by the court.

• Never provide any personal or financial information to individuals either personally or claiming to be calling from a business or organization. This includes dates of birth or social security numbers or account numbers, for example. Businesses and organizations that you deal with have all of that information already.

• As always, if an offer sounds too good to be true, more often than not, it is and if you feel uncomfortable in anyway with an offer you receive or you see some red flags, don’t respond in any way whatsoever, ignore it, don’t respond and “Just Hang Up.”

• If someone asks you to pay them with pre-paid cards like iTunes or gift certificates. This is a huge red flag it is a scam.

“Many of the scams that affect our citizens originate from outside Oconee County,” says Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Jimmy Watt. “With that said, if the scam does not originate from inside Oconee County, then prosecution by the Sheriff’s Office is virtually impossible. Also, if a scam occurs outside of the United States, then prosecution by the Federal Government is virtually impossible. The best way to put scammers out of business is not to be a victim and to educate yourself on what scammers do and how they do it.”

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