Know the Tell-Tale Signs of Scammers in Action
The Westerville Division of Police (WPD) is encouraging residents to remember the golden rule of scam avoidance: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Each year, millions of people fall prey to high-pressure scammers looking for a quick buck.
“These crimes are difficult to solve because usually the scammers are targeting a large number of people in a short amount of time. It’s hard to find people to prosecute,” said WPD Lt. Charles Chandler. “The best thing is to get educated to avoid becoming a victim in the first place.” He encourages residents to be aware of the signs of three common scams:
- It’s a call from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and you’re in big trouble.
How it works: You receive a call, email or text message from someone claiming to be from the IRS and, wouldn’t you know it, you’ve missed a tax payment or they need to verify your personal information. You better act fast, or there will be dire consequences.
The tell-tale sign: “The IRS is not going to call, text or email you first. If they need to get ahold of you, they will send correspondence through certified mail. Also, people from official government agencies aren’t going act aggressively with a resident,” said Lt. Chandler.
How to handle it: If it’s a text message or email, Lt. Chandler recommends you simply ignore it and refrain from clicking any links. If you find yourself on the phone with a possible scammer he suggests keeping the conversation short and formal. “Tell them, for your safety, you don’t take unsolicited calls. Ask for their name and contact information. Then visit www.irs.gov for a phone number to call and verify the information,” he said.
- Your relative is in jail and they need money fast.
How it works: You receive a call from a relative in a panic or a police officer. Wouldn’t you know it— your relative is suddenly up against big charges. They need money fast to get out of jail.
The tell-tale sign: “Police departments don’t just elicit money to get people out of charges. In the justice system, there are set legal processes that must be followed. Any time you’re in a situation where it seems a government official is trying to get around a process in exchange for cash, it’s time to disconnect,” Lt. Chandler said.
How to handle it: “You need to ask for the exact name of the law enforcement agency you’re supposedly dealing with and the name and title of the officer you or the relative is supposedly talking to,” he said. “Then tell them that you’re going independently verify the information.”
- A relative you never knew just passed away, meaning you just hit the jackpot.
How it works: A lawyer notified you that you’re their deceased client’s only living heir. All that stands between you and a big inheritance check is a sizable processing fee.
The tell-tale sign: “This is the classic application for, ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,’” said Lt. Chandler. “If you’re getting a big inheritance, no one is going to ask you for money in order to receive it. Any kind of payments for attorney fees would come out of the estate.”
How to handle it: Lt. Chandler recommends you approach the news skeptically and take time to peruse the obits or court documents in the area from which this relative supposedly lived. “This is another case where, more than likely, you would receive notification through certified mail. Do some research and see if you can actually find the person in your family tree,” he said.
For more information about common scams targeting citizens, visit www.usa.gov/common-scams-frauds.