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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 13, 2017

Iowa Attorney General’s office gives tips to identify scams

Dec 01, 2017

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News

 

Stop. Think. Call.

That’s the three things Al Perales, an investigator with the Consumer Protection Divison of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, wants Henry County residents to remember if they receive a suspicious phone call, text or email.

Representatives from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office will be in Mt. Pleasant on Tuesday, Dec. 5, to talk with Henry County residents about how to protect themselves from scammers. The event will be held at the Mt. Pleasant Public Library from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

“Scams come in all shapes and sizes,” warns Perales. “They are a knock at the door, the internet, a phone call, and a text.”

Despite appearing in different forms, Perales says scams will always have a telltale sign. “They always come as a strong situation,” he said. The strong situation means there is some kind of urgency in the scam like winning the lotto, paying the IRS back or bailing a family member out of jail. “While you’re going through it, it feels so real. There are all sorts of red flags going off, but you have this tunnel vision,” he said.

Perales says a scam will have one of three strong situtaitions — excitement, fear or a situation that will pull on your heartstrings. “If you have a situation where someone calls you and they’re using excitement or fear or a situation that pulls at your heartstrings, and they’re asking for money, it’s more than likely a scam.”

Scams Perales has seen include the IRS scam, where a scammer will call a victim and tell them they owe so much to the IRS and it must be paid now or a warrant will be put out for their arrest. The grandparent scam is another one Perales has seen lately. “This one amazes me because the scammer doesn’t do any type of homework. Perales says the scammer will just say “Grandma? Grandpa?” and the older individual will respond with their grandchild’s name. The scammer will then use that name to build a story that requires immediate funds from the “grandparent.”

“One of the red flags of a scam is you have to do it now. You have to pay now,” said Perales. Other red flags include being asked to keep the payment a secret or requesting the funds be wired or by gift card.

“Once they’ve got you, they’re going to try it again,” warns Perales. “They’re going to give you another reason; there was a mistake and you need to send even more money.”

One of the newer scams, Perales said, is the jury scam. The scammer will call a victim and state they had been called for jury duty, but failed to show up. “The caller ID might even say Polk County Sheriff Department. That’s how good they are, they can spoof the number on the caller ID to give validity,” he said.

In all of these instances, the Consumer Protection Office wants Iowans to remember three things: stop, think and call.

“If you think you’re in a scam... you need to stop, think and call,” said Perales.

If someone thinks they’re the victim of a scam, they should hang up the phone, think about what was being asked of them, and then call the Consumer Protection Office at 888-777-4590.

With December being the month of giving, Perales says it’s important to research what organization money is being given to. Perales recommends jumping online to a charity or organization’s website and see just how much the actual charity receives. “Many times we find you give $10 and $9 goes to the professional fundraiser and only $1 goes to the actual charity.”

And as there are more and more organizations out there every year, Perales says it’s important to do a little research before opening up the wallet. “Before you sign on the dotted line, before you say yes on the phone, before you donate to a charity, take the time to do a little homework before entering into that contract.”

The Better Business Buearu also has a full list of charities and professional fundraisers at www.give.org.

“We just want to let everyone out there know that you have friends at the Iowa Attorney General’s Office,” said Perales.

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