A rash of scams is hitting our area. This week some callers have told consumers that they have won a sweepstakes (if they just pay a fee first). Or that they owe a fine for missing jury duty. And Cheryl Toma received a phone call a few nights ago from someone claiming to be from the IRS. "He said I owed them $856," she tells me.
But Cheryl wasn't fooled. She began asking questions. "As I questioned him he said he was sending the police over in 30 minutes and they were going to arrest me," she says. "And that's when I knew it was a scam for sure."
And that warning of sending authorities if you don't pay is definitely a red flag. Another is always the sense of urgency. The caller tells you that this payment has to be made right away. And often they want your debit or credit card number or they tell you to send the money via Western Union or Moneygram.
This week a Richmond Hill woman lost about $600 after a caller claimed she owed a fine because she missed jury duty. He said she was facing a misdemeanor but if she didn't pay it would be upgraded to a felony charge.
Intimidation is normally part of any scammer's pitch.
Toma knew better than to listen, but admits at first, she was a little concerned. "We're all busy, life is busy, we get caught off guard, this scam plays upon people's fears," she says.
The best advice is to do what Toma did. She took a deep breath and started to think about what the caller was saying. She knew no one from the IRS would just call her during evening hours and start demanding money over the telephone. She has filed a complaint with the IRS and the Federal Trade Commission. And urges anyone who gets a call about anything that involves giving money over the telephone - to hand up.