Craighead County residents have recently reported receiving calls from a scammer falsely identifying himself as a law enforcement officer. To make this ruse even more believable, the caller ID spoofs the sheriff department’s phone number, so it looks like the call is coming from the authorities. The caller demands their victim pays over the phone with a prepaid gift card to avoid arrest.
The Benton County Sheriff’s office recently warned the public of a similar ploy and advised citizens that its officers will not contact individuals over the phone to request money in order to avoid jail time.
The sense of urgency in these situations often prevents folks from checking all the facts and ensuring the validity, but it could be costly and cause an unnecessary hassle.
Thieves are constantly updating their scams. Scammers will create fake websites, phone numbers and scenarios in order to make what they are doing seem legitimate. They are getting more complex and convincing. During this season of giving, it’s especially important to remain vigilant as criminals are putting our generosity in their crosshairs.
The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received nearly 12,000 reports from victims of fraud during the 2022 holiday season, totaling more than $73 million dollars. While we’re all searching for a good deal, it’s important to protect ourselves and our loved ones from getting swindled.
At this time of year, it’s common to be bombarded with emails and social media ads promoting the perfect present. There are additional risks that come with online shopping. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. It’s necessary to pay attention to website addresses. When making a purchase, verify that the webpage begins with https://, check online reviews of the company and see what the experience has been for other consumers. Be wary of businesses that only accept payments with gift cards, virtual cash and wire transfers. A secure payment with credit cards offers more protections if there is a problem.
The spirit of the holiday season leads to an increase in charitable giving in December. This also means it’s a prime target for exploiting our kindness. A 2022 AARP poll found 39 percent of people received a donation request that seemed fraudulent. Don’t be rushed into giving over the phone, always research charities before donating and do not give to anyone who asks for payment in cash, wire money or with a gift card.
Gift cards have been the most popular present for more than a decade. It's convenient to find, purchase and send to family and friends, making it a favorite for criminals. Similar to the hucksters posing as law enforcement in Arkansas, scammers will touch base with a call, text or email and make up a story about needing payment with a gift card and ask for the card number and the PIN. Gift cards should not be used for payment.
Don’t let scammers steal the joy of the holidays. Being aware of practices thieves use to steal our money and what to look out for will keep us one step ahead of these evolving schemes and keep us safe.