New year, same old scams.
If you've checked your email or Facebook within the last week, you may have seen warnings that cell phone numbers will be going public, and that telemarketers will begin incessantly calling if you don't call to register your number to the National Do Not Call Registry. It also says call recipients will be charged for telemarketers' calls, and claims that using any other phone but a cell phone will not block the number.
Don't fall for it. This scam goes way back, and it seems every January brings a new crop of emails trying to get people to call the listed number to block their phones. It does no such thing, and usually gives cell phone numbers to whatever subterfuged company is sending the emails.
However, it is possible to add numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry, which is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The number is 1-888-382-1222, and there is no deadline.
Be wary of any unsolicited "advice" received electronically, be it through email or social media. Scammers have been able to use technology to their advantage, and they get more creative all the time. Try to look out for elderly people, who are often particularly susceptible to phone/Internet scams. In Jan. of 2012, a couple in Martins Ferry fell victim to a scam after they received a late-night phone call from a man claiming to be their grandson asking for bail money. In Bellaire, a couple fell for a similar scam the previous year. Even the police aren't exempt from scammers, as Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland once received numerous calls about unpaid fines from a BMV of New York. He knew it was false and avoided falling prey, but not everyone is so lucky.
Requests for money and private information always need to be questioned. Even if it seems to come from a family member or close friend, it may be a scammer impersonating them.
Scammers have been known to steal money by leaving messages on answering machines and voicemails telling recipients that their bank accounts have been compromised, and they need to call and give their debit card numbers. Bank officials stress that they never communicate with their customers in this manner.
In November, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine urged caution amongst Ohio residents who want to contribute to the relief fund for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
"In the wake of this disaster, we want to do all we can to help, and I encourage those who can to do so," he said in a Nov. statement. "But please remember that while legitimate charities make good use of your donations, others may use this tragedy to take your money for themselves, not for those in need."
Always do research about an organization before donating money, and be on the lookout for copycat charities, which make websites with similar names to legitimate charities and copy the website's design to fool unsuspecting good samaritans.
If you are receiving suspicious calls, texts, or emails, or think you may have been the victim of a scam, contact your local law enforcement agency. Learn more about identity and consumer theft and how to report it at www.ftc.gov., the government's Federal Trade Commission website.
Warner may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.