Protect Yourself from Scams

Protect Yourself from Scams
By: CJ Cassidy

It happens all the time. people fall victim to scams.  In fact every week here at Heartland News, we take dozens of calls from viewers who have been scammed or have caught a scam, and you may be one of those people yourself.
Police say everyone wants something for nothing, and many won't stop until they get burned.
Here are some of the more common scams.
The Fake Lottery Scam - where you're promised big winnings in exchange for tax money up front.
The Phishing Scam - that's when crooks try to get your personal information through an email.
The Nigerian Scam - where people overseas trick you into cashing phony checks or using stolen credit cards.
Something else, claiming to be a victim won't always help you.
Linda Miller of Cape Girardeau is always getting calls from strangers, and she's fallen victim to what they promise not once but twice.
First, it was the fake lottery scam where she sent on more than $2000 in so-called tax money ahead of her bogus winnings.  Then came a check scam.
"I got it in the mail, and I entered so many sweepstakes, I thought praise the Lord I'm a winner!" Miller said.
All in all, Miller's out more than $5000.
"If the check turns out to be a fraud or a phony, the bank will take money out of your account and you'll be out, not the bank," said Lt. David James with the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department.  He's seen his scam cases increase almost 100% over the past five years.
Once he investigated a case where a man fell victim to an Ebay scam.  It turns out an overseas scammer set up a fake escrow account and didn't deliver the goods.
"Local law enforcement can't afford to travel overseas to investigate one crime.  We don't have that luxury," James said.
A Sikeston woman whose identity we agreed to protect says she fell victim to the Nigerian scam.
"My understanding was we were to keep some and then send some to this person I was talking to for his family," she said.
So she accepted stuff police say an overseas buyer bought with stolen credit cards.  Now the woman could face jail time.
"I'm kind of slow and didn't put two and two together," she said.
Lt. James says saying you don't understand doesn't work all the time.
"We used to feel sorry for people when Internet technology was first taking off, but after a while with it being shown more on the television, and law enforcement trying to warn people, it gets to a point where you say you should have known better," he said.
Police say this is the time of year most scammers try to come up with fake charities.  So bottom line, think before you act.
When it comes to scams, a little common sense goes a long way towards protecting yourself and your pocket book.
  • Many scams involve someone sending you a check.  You're supposed to cash it, and send part of the money back.  Usually the check's bogus and then you're stuck with paying it all back.
  • Phishing's another common scam.  Be very careful when you get emails asking for your personal information.  Always check the Internet address to make sure it matches the site you normally visit. Scam artists can make sites that look identical to the real thing. Unless you're exchanging money with someone, there's no need to ever give out credit card, bank account or social security information.