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March 20, 2013
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Eagle cops: How to recognize scams and protect yourself

According to a bulletin sent out by the Eagle Police Department last week, there has been a recent surge in the use of financial scams in Colorado, and specifically here in the town of Eagle.

Scammers prey on people who are susceptible to quick money schemes, people who are in debt or have had past collections, the elderly, people who might believe they are guilty of something when they are not, and sometimes even random targets.

"Scams can sound very tempting and some of the threats and promises seem very real. They are designed that way," reads the police release. "But people can protect themselves by being alert and informed, and using good judgment."

These scams are committed by national and international criminals, using fabricated personal and organizational names and credentials. Every day, all day, most of them do nothing but scam people out of money and possessions.

"In essence, they are good at what they do. These predators have no concern for you or your personal situation, and they prey on people's vulnerability," noted the release. "They are likely many states away, even overseas, very difficult to find, and almost impossible to hold accountable in most cases. Some of the scammers will even dare you to contact the police because it is so difficult to find and stop them. That does not make such calls or contacts more legitimate, just more suspicious."

The Eagle Police urge residents to hang up or disregard callers who:

• Offer something that's too good to be true. Generally, if it sounds too good, it probably is. If it sounds too good to pass up, play it safe and hang up.

• Use personal identifying information by threat or deception. These scams normally revolve around obscure or unknown collections/debts. They demand payment for something you do not owe and threaten legal action, contact you at your work or even show up at your home. As intimidating as these tactics might sound, they are not legitimate. If you are not guilty of something, and you know you aren't, hang up.

• Make official sounding requests for personal identifying information. Banks, credit card companies, or other financial institutions do not ask you for your personal information. If the call claims to be from one of your institutions, and they ask you for personal information, hang up. Call the company back on the number provided to you through official documentation (such as your bill or the back of your officially issued card) and make your own inquiries. Never use a number provided to you during suspect spam calls. Those numbers call back the scammers.

• Request emergency personal identifying information. Calls will be emergent, indicating a breach or hacking attempt, and that your financial/personal information is compromised. Requests will be made for you to provide personal identifying information. Hang up. This also includes calls from service providers (satellite television or Internet service provides, for example). Scammers pretend to be affiliated with providers you subscribe with and offer upgrades or other services. Use caution as most of these calls are high pressure, and always hang up and contact your provider yourself if it seems suspicious.

The Internet can be a very dangerous place. Online scams are very in-depth and appear very real.

Some sales/web pages using official names can be faked and links go directly to the scammer's computers, not to the advertised pay site. Always use caution with any financial transactions and try not to use any "provided links" via email. Always use trusted sites/sources and always look for secured web pages.

Locally reported scams

Calls from the "Federal Crimes and Investigations Unit" or other official-sounding organizations are connected with scams.

Scammers may try to intimidate potential victims into compromising their personal financial information with these types of calls. Voicemails/phone calls are threatening in nature and attempt to get people to reveal information essentially through bullying, profanity and threats. The scammers will have some correct personal information (last 4 digits of SSN, phone numbers), but normally don't have your full personal information or credit information. Callers often have foreign accents and use common names (Joe Smith), even some movie star names.

These scams are mostly focused on the elderly or persons who have some debt collection in the past.

They first offer loans at ridiculously low rates or payback schedules ($1,000 or less). These are very attractive offers for people in financial trouble. If accepted, they ask you to pay via money card (purchased at grocery or convenience stores). If paid, then the loan now cannot be offered because of an outstanding debt and they provide a number to call. When that number is called, the scam continues by offering a quick "payout" for the false collection, also to be paid by money card. If that is then paid, you are directed to call the first number back, now with no answer or placed on hold, indefinitely. Be wary of such unsolicited calls; only deal with legitimate financial institutions.

These are often phone calls but can also come by email, text and social media. The scammer claims to be a friend or family member who needs money wired to them immediately for injury/medical reasons/broken down vehicles/some other emergency.

They will always revolve around quick money exchanges and extreme circumstances. Be suspicious with any communication like this, and investigate further.

These "too good to be true" offers are almost always fraudulent. Better technology regarding checks/cashing of checks has made this more difficult but it is still a concern.

If someone offers you money for getting them money, hang up. If you make a sale of personal items and are paid in advance of sending them, and told to "keep the rest," a scam or fraud might be lurking somewhere in that transaction and might cause you to lose money.

Some Basic Ways to Protect Yourself from scams include:

• Review all of your financial account information on a regular basis.

• Check your credit history regularly.

• Maintain strong passwords for online activity and change them often.

• Use good judgment.

• Be suspicious of any request for personal information

• Don't hesitate to hang up.

• Awareness is the key to not being victimized by scams.

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The VailDaily Updated Mar 20, 2013 12:56PM Published Mar 20, 2013 12:54PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.