Thursday, June 26, 2014

Protect Yourself from Scam Artists

Local insurance company warns community about IRS scams.  A local Steger resident received a call saying that he did not pay his taxes and police would be arresting him soon.  He went to the Steger Police Department and gave them the number to call.  The police traced the call to a McDonald’s in  Washington D.C.
     Remember, the IRS does not call you outright in this manner.  All communication from the IRS begin with a letter to your home.  In this way you contact them directly to clear up any discrepancy.  The IRS does not operate in the function of quickly arresting people.  All processes must go through the court system and if anyone found to be in extreme violation a warrant would be issued for a person’s arrest which would be served by a county Sheriff’s Police Officer.
     BE ON THE ALERT as tax returns will be filed, there is an increased in scams of all types.  Protect your filing status and identity carefully this tax season.  Other tricks follow below.

Not all Thieves Are This Obvious
6 Current Scams Popping Up in Your Area

It is simply a shame that such things even exist. You wonder why someone would put the effort into hurting someone, instead of putting the effort into making an honest living. Following are six common scams we are seeing in this area. Please make others aware because when people catch on, PREVENTION ruins the scam artist’s game.

1.  Predator Targets Senior Citizen – An elderly person gets a phone call that a loved one is in trouble. They need to send a “money gram” right away to help. The trouble could be a false arrest, car breaking down while “out of town on an emergency,” they were beat up and dropped in an unfamiliar area, incurring expenses for help and now they need to get home, etc. The stories are endless but the pattern is the same; create panic (which causes confusion), seed a story (that tugs on the love strings) and can’t be verified, and prey on the person’s natural instinct to help.  A local woman recently received such a phone call from her supposed nephew; he gave his name and made references to family members. Speaking to her in her most used language in Spanish, he succeeded in creating panic. He would call back with information where to wire the money. Her son happened to stop by just then and she told him what happened. Suspecting something, her son waited for the phone call. When it came, he spoke briefly with the supposed nephew and then told the man on the other end that he was calling the police. The call ended abruptly. He later explained to his mother, “Mom didn’t you realize that your nephew doesn’t speak fluent Spanish?” She knew this well, but in “panic” mode; the thought of her nephew in danger would have moved her to do anything. Scammers know to create confusion, so logic gets dumped.

2. Concert or Event Tickets – This is a growing trend with two different endings.  A consumer orders and pays for tickets for a concert or event; either they never come in or the tickets are fake ones. The Chicago Better Business Bureau reported that 32,000 consumers have contacted them in the past 12 months for pre-purchase information about ticket sales/event companies.

3.  Door to Door Scams – The most common door to door scam can include magazine subscription sales, meat sales, “free” energy audits, outdoor home maintenance, medical wellness checks and voter surveys. Many of these lead to identity theft.  The BBB recommends: when in doubt keep strangers out!

4.  Moving Companies – There are many good ones out there. Beware of the ones looking to take more than your belongings for a ride. 2013 showed an increase in unlicensed and dishonest scammers, the BBB received over 1.6 million moving related inquiries and 7,900 complaints including lost or stolen belongings, damaged items, significant price increase over quoted estimate, late deliveries and goods being “held hostage” for additional payment.

5.  Travel Scams – direct mail offers for trips and cruises including look-a-like boarding passes and travelers checks. Some offers claim to include free airfare and destination vacations by simply calling a 1-800 number. Watch out for slick talkers, there are often hidden fees ALWAYS read the fine print.

6.  Seasonal Job Scams - A tell-tale sign of these scams are fake postings that offer unusually high pay for little or no effort. Some use fake interviews or job fairs that require payment by you in order to get the job. Never pay to get a position. Beware of commission only jobs, keep in mind seasonal job scams are often a front to steal your identity.

Scam Protection Alert brought to you by Jeff Sopko Insurance Agency

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