LEE COUNTY, Fla. -As 2012 quickly comes to a close, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office reminds you to remain vigilant in protecting your identity, personal credit, and bank accounts. Despite numerous warnings throughout the year about scammers who prey on unsuspecting consumers through bogus e-mails and phone calls, the Sheriff’s Office continues to receive complaints from trustworthy and innocent victims who have been swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Highlighted below are scams most commonly reported to the Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line this year:
Sweepstakes / Lottery Scam: This particular scam generally targets our seniors who live alone and are vulnerable to the lies told to them by the scammer. Often too ashamed to tell anyone, many older adults are robbed of their life savings before law enforcement or family members are notified. It’s important to remember that no legitimate sweepstakes or lottery will ask you to pay money up front in order to collect your winnings.
Internet scams targeting residents searching for home or vacation rentals, looking for work, or buying/selling an item online ran rampant in Southwest Florida during 2012. To avoid becoming a victim of these clever scams, always do your due diligence when conducting business of any kind with someone online. Beware of scammers who offer to pay more then what you are asking, or send a check and ask you to “wire excess money” to a shipper or other unknown person. Never fill out an online application sent to you by a “potential” employer asking for personal information unless you are certain it is legitimate. And keep in mind the old saying, “If it looks to good to be true, it probably isn’t true”.
Phishing Text Messages or Voice Mails: Scammers will text message or leave a voice mail telling you that your bank or credit card account has been compromised. If you are instructed to enter your card or bank account number into your phone, DON’T; as doing so will give the bad guy your account information. Instead, always call your card holder or financial institution to confirm.
Microsoft Security Team: This scam kept our fraud line ringing from residents who reported receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Microsoft security team alerting the internet user to a “supposed” virus on their computer. Smooth talking from the scammer convinces the user to allow them remote access to their computer. This is quite dangerous and can end up costing the consumer hundreds of dollars in computer repair costs after the scammer destroys the hard drive, as well as stealing the victim’s identity.
If you have questions about consumer fraud or if you have been victimized, contact the Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line at 239-477-1242. To arrange for someone to speak to your community organization, club or place of employment about frauds, scams and identity theft, call 239-477-1037.