Cumberland Times-News

Columns

May 12, 2014

Scammers

When in doubt, just hang up the telephone

The latest scam going around — that we are aware of — involves telephone calls from someone who claims to be a Circuit Court employee who tells the listener he has been charged with contempt of court and fined for failing to report for jury duty.



The caller refers to a judge by name — it’s easy to find a judge’s name and use it for reference — and demands payment over the phone by prepaid card. This isn’t how the courts or any other government or police agency operate. They don’t call people and make
threats.



If you were subject to a fine, the judge would tell you in person, in court.



The Maryland Judiciary says anyone who gets such a call
should hang up immediately.



Telephone scammers often pose as representatives of government agencies or utilities seeking payment of what they say are overdue bills — which is not how utilities handle such matters — and demand money and personal information.



They like to target senior citizens on the premise that they may be subject to sudden panic when confronted by someone who purports to be a figure of authority. Many senior citizens — especially if they are veterans or retired from public service — are in fact just the opposite.



Instead of making threats, some scammers tell people they have won a lottery or a prize of some kind and tell them they must pay a processing fee.



Any time callers ask for a Social Security number, bank account or credit card number or other private, personal information, it’s most likely a scam. Never give out such information over the phone, on the Internet or to someone who comes to your home unsolicited.



Be wary if someone uses bullying tactics to get you to pay. If a caller says you owe money, take down the necessary information and then call the government agency or service provider’s customer service line to verify your account balance.
The police like to know about such things, too, so they can warn others about it.



Do not panic. Take time to think through it. Do you really owe the amount they say you owe?



Wiring money is the same as sending cash. Once it is sent, it is difficult to trace who received it. Giving out a credit card number leaves you open to theft of money and your identity.



Caller ID is no defense either, because scammers can “spoof” a phone number.



Remember: If it sounds too good — or bad — to be true, it probably isn’t true.

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