We have been fielding a lot of calls recently from citizens who have received phone calls from an “official” from the Sheriff’s Office, as well as other governmental agencies, telling them they have a warrant for their arrest and need to send money right away or risk being arrested. Sounds pretty fishy? Sadly, to many people fall victim to this or some other scam.
There are thousands of frauds, scams and cons out there with the single goal of getting your money. Whether they come to you over the phone, mail or internet, here are tips to help spot and avoid them.
In general, be wary of anyone asking you to pay fees or fines via gift cards (Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc), a pre-paid credit or debit card, Green Dot MoneyPak or wire transfer. It is a scam.
Imposter scams– The scammers claim to be law enforcement officers, government agents like the IRS, relatives, debt collectors, utility workers or bail bondsmen. The imposter may threaten to issue an arrest warrant, contact law enforcement, shut off a utility, or arrest a relative, unless you pay them immediately with a pre-paid credit or debit card, Green Dot MoneyPak or a wire transfer.
Grant fraud and lottery scams– The scammer will contact you with “news” that you’ve won a grant or lottery prize. In order to receive the money, the scammer says you have to pay fees or taxes right away via pre-paid credit or debit card, Green Dot MoneyPak or a wire transfer. Sometimes the scammer will send you a check as an “advance” to “help” cover taxes and fees, with the empty promise of releasing the rest of the money after you pay taxes/fees with a MoneyPak. The check, of course, is later discovered to be fake.
Online Auction/Sale Scams– The scammer will post online ads for goods or services and request payment by pre-paid credit or debit card, Green Dot MoneyPak or other wire transfer. The goods or services don’t arrive and the “seller” is unreachable.
Romance Scams– Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and will go to great lengths to begin a relationship with you. At some point, the fake mate will tell you about a financial hardship or an ill family member and ask you to send money with a pre-paid credit or debit card, Green Dot MoneyPak or a wire transfer.
Don’t fall for it
If the scam is over the phone, hang up and call your local law enforcement agency.
No law enforcement agency will ever contact you by phone, e-mail or regular mail and tell you to pay fees/fines.
Don’t be fooled by other sites that have ‘government’ or other official words in the title.
If something doesn’t feel right – pay attention to your instincts and walk away. Call a trusted friend or relative to get another opinion before doing anything.
Check out the following link, with tips on how to prevent identity theft: