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Nowadays, everyone is a potential target for scam artists trying to separate well-meaning people from their hard-earned savings.
Through 2012 and into this week, Trooper Kendra Wilson, public information officer for Kentucky State Police Post 12, said 23 fraud complaints have been reported in Spencer County alone. Wilson said she could not break down the numbers at this time to determine the types of fraud reported.
KSP Trooper Brad Arterburn, public information officer at Post 5 in Campbellsburg, said since the beginning of the year, they’ve received 15 reports of scams from area residents. Most of those, he said, have been for unauthorized use of debit or credit cards.
Post 12 serves Spencer, Shelby, Anderson, Fayette, Franklin, Scott and Woodford counties; Post 5 serves Carroll, Owen, Henry, Gallatin, Oldham and Trimble counties.
In Trimble County and the surrounding area, the elderly still seem to be prime targets, and Sheriff Tim Coons is hoping to get the word out there to prevent local residents from falling victim to scammers.
The most recent scam, he said, involves a young male calling the home of an elderly person or couple and claiming to be a grandson.
Then, “the caller claims he is stranded and needs money to get home,” Coons said in a news release dispatched last week. In recently reported cases, the caller says he is stranded in Crestwood and needs money for transportation, Coons added.
“We want everyone to be aware these calls are happening,” Coons said, and warns: “Under no circumstances should you give callers money or credit card information.”
Anyone who has received a call of this nature can notify Kentucky State Police Post 12 in Frankfort, (502) 227-2221, immediately
Arterburn said, so far, Post 5 hasn’t received reports of the scam described by Coons, but said two people reported that a scammer called and told them that their computer was going to stop working if they didn’t send the caller money. Another reported a more common swindle, with the caller telling the victim that they had won a prize but were required to provide the caller with credit card information in order to claim it.
Arterburn said phone scams may go unreported because the person receiving the call will simply hang up when they smell something fishy. “They don’t think to call us.”
Both he and Wilson, who gives talks to senior citizens to teach them about scams, encourage anyone who suspects a scam to contact police.
“A lot of times, the scammer will keep calling,” Arterburn said. And, though, “a lot of the calls originate from other countries and are hard to track,” reporting the calls allows law enforcement to stay on top of the trend and warn others.
Other scams to watch out for
The Better Business Bureau of Louisville has sent out a news release with several scams that are occurring in the area.
Prepaid debit card scam. Reanna Smith-Hamblin of the BBB Louisville said one scam involves customers of Duke Energy. In this scam, a caller contacts a Duke customer threatening to turn off the power if a payment is not made within the hour. The customer is instructed to go purchase a prepaid debit card and call back to give the alleged Duke representative the card’s number and personal identification number, or PIN.
The “499” scam. In this scenario, a call comes from “499” on the victim’s cell phone. The caller says they are with the security department of a bank and explains that the victim’s card has been deactivated because of suspicious activity. The caller asks for your credit card number, expiration date, security code and PIN. After obtaining the information, the caller tells the victim the card has been reactivated – but, of course, now the scam artist has all of your information and can use your card.
Fake Derby tickets. These are expected to pop up on sales websites, such as Craigslist.com and others. The red flag: The scam artist asks ticket seekers to pay for the tickets by sending money via Western Union. Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
Sound-alike charity names. If you donate to charity, be sure that you are giving your money to the legitimate charity of your choice, not an organization with a “sound alike” name.
For example, if you want to donate to a cause for animals, make sure you are sending your money to the Humane Society of the United States and not the National Humane Society. BBB has limited information on the NHS.
Before sending money, visit Give.org to check out the correct name of the nonprofit organization to which you wish to donate.
Two other examples are the Breast Cancer Prevention Fund, based in Washington State, and the Breast Cancer Research and Support Fund, based in Florida. Both organizations have declined to be evaluated according to BBB’s Standards for Charitable Accountability. Through this process, the BBB evaluates an organization to see if it meets 20 voluntary standards on matters such as charity finances, appeals, and governance. The BBB does not evaluate the worthiness of the charitable program.
However, two similarly named groups – Breast Cancer Fund and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation – do comply with BBB by providing additional information about their finances and activities, and are in good standing.
Other advice from the BBB
Avoid being a victim by being cautious about all investment opportunities, business prospects or work-from-home offers. Every investment has risks, but a professional investment broker or adviser is properly licensed. Do your research. If the promised return on investment is too great, that’s a red flag. For more information on broker-dealers and registered representatives, visit Finra.org/brokercheck.
Check out every business by going directly to its official website. Do not follow a link in an e-mail. Often scammers will use a website that’s similar but not exact – Wesernunion.com – for example. Type in the URL yourself.
Talk to someone at the business to verify that the scammer is who she says she is. In addition, check out the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org/search. BBB often puts an alert on the report of a business if a scammer has been using a company’s good name for disreputable purposes.
Scam artists prey upon the desire we all have to get rich quickly and easily or to help a loved one in need. Never react quickly to a request for money. Call other family members to investigate if a loved one is truly in need.
If you are presented with a “once in a lifetime” chance at riches, verify the opportunity. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.