Avoid those scams

Published 12:12 pm Wednesday, August 21, 2019

We recently learned of a scam call purportedly involving Dominion Energy.

These calls usually insist the customer’s payment is overdue and their power will be shut off if they don’t pay immediately. Of course, paying only leads to a scammer getting access to the customer’s financial information or hard-earned money.

Dominion isn’t the only company or agency that scammers pretend to represent. Scammers might pretend to be from the IRS, Medicare, your bank, your local city or county government, a police department or sheriff’s office or magistrate’s office, another utility like water or something else. The main element is fear: if they can put you in fear of thinking you’re in debt, about to get arrested or about to have an important utility turned off, or someone has hacked your accounts, they’re halfway to their goal of getting you to part with your hard-earned money.

Sadly, some scammers are even known to impersonate family members and friends, making you think a loved one is in trouble with the law or in financial trouble and needs your help to make it right.

On the other side of the coin is the “too-good-to-be-true” scam, telling you you’ve won a prize of large cash value — and all you need to do is send a smaller (but still sizable) amount of cash to claim it.

Here are a few tips you can use to recognize the scams, avoid becoming a victim and perhaps help others avoid becoming a victim, too.

• Don’t rely on the caller ID. Technology now allows scammers to make it appear like the call is coming from a legitimate number belonging to the company or agency.

• Be cautious of all unsolicited calls. Legitimate communications from utilities, the government, the IRS, your bank and most other agencies that might be impersonated will come through the mail.

• Hang up on suspected scams, look up a legitimate number for the company or agency, and ask questions.

• Never go purchase a pre-paid gift card to pay a caller who says you owe a debt. That will never happen with a legitimate company or agency.

• Never succumb to pressure to commit right away. That’s a scam tactic.

• Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry (888-382-1222). It won’t stop spam calls, but it will make them easier to spot, because legitimate telemarketers won’t call you.

• Don’t follow instructions on prerecorded messages.

• Don’t give out personal or financial data to callers you don’t know.

• Don’t pay registration or shipping charges to get a supposed free product or prize.

• Report suspected scams to the Federal Communications Commission by calling 888-225-5322.