Many people want your money.
Some are legitimate. They provide you with goods or services and expect a fair price for the work they do for you. That’s how capitalism works.
Others, though, are willing to lie, cheat and steal to get your hard-earned dollar, and modern communications keep making it easier for them to find victims.
Earlier this week, the Internal Revenue Service provided The Observer with a lengthy scam warning that we published in Wednesday’s newspaper. The IRS is seeing a surge in scams in which the recipient is told he or she owes tax money and threatening some action if it isn’t paid.
The IRS said it will not leave a prerecorded message on your voice mail. It does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal information. It reaches out to taxpayers in most cases through regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
For details on how to respond to those scams, visit irs.gov, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Report Phishing link.
But the scammers aren’t just pretending to be government agents.
Also this week, The Observer’s crime report included an incident in which a woman sent two Moneygrams totaling $2,350 in an attempt to purchase a dog being sold over the internet. She still doesn’t have the dog, and now she can’t get hold of the sellers.
Sgt. Richard Harris of the Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office took the dog fraud report. In discussing it with The Observer, Harris said he had had four other scams reported within an hour that same day.
In those scams, someone called local residents and said a car associated with their personal information had been found with drugs in it somewhere far away. Pretending to be with law enforcement, the caller wanted the recipient to give them their personal information — name, date of birth, and especially their Social Security number — to “verify” it. In other words, they wanted everything they’d need to apply for a credit card in the recipient’s name, buy whatever they want and leave that person with the bill.
Be extremely careful about giving out personal information like that. Know who you’re dealing with.
Don’t buy something over the internet sight-unseen.
If someone claiming to be from a government or law enforcement agency wants immediate payment, it’s probably a scam. If they ask for payment in odd currency — like a pre-paid Visa card or Google Play card — you can be certain it is.
African princes do not launder money by sending it to random people they found by email.
You cannot win a lottery that you did not enter.
If you have won something, a legitimate contest won’t require you to pay a “service fee” to get your prize.
And, as cliche as it sounds: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.