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Scammers are getting much, much more clever

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You have to give it to scam artists – some are getting pretty creative. And dire economic times are breeding  ingenuity among some of the best.
In the past six months, The Lancaster News has published several articles about various scams in Lancaster County.
In February, reporter Reece Murphy shared the plight of a woman who was summoned to Springs Memorial Hospital in the wee hours of the morning. The caller, who identified himself as a highway patrolman, said she had a family member at the hospital and to get there fast.
Turns out that it was a prank call. Only the victim wasn’t laughing. Several scenarios emerged that night. The woman could have gotten hurt rushing to the hospital. The caller could have been watching and waiting as she left her home and burglarized it in her absence. A highway patrol spokesperson said that was not the protocol the agency uses in notifying family members about accident victims, etc.
That story prompted more calls to the newspaper about similar incidents. One caller was supposedly called by a private investigator who had some information he needed to share and asked the intended victim to meet him in the parking lot of a local business.
Such incidents have taught us all to be more wary, ask questions, trace the calls and file suspicious reports with law enforcement offices.
We’ve also published stories in our police blotter about flim-flam scams where people give cash to a complete stranger in promise of divvying up a large sum of money the stranger recently found.
On July 27, we shared the story of a phone scammer who threatened to kill a woman if she did not wire him $2,500 through Western Union.
The most recent scam is connected to the recent debt-ceiling debate going on in Washington, D.C. Until the compromise was reached, there were talks that Social Security checks would not go out in August. Clever identity thieves seized the opportunity to use a little fear tactic to obtain vital information from Social Security and Medicare recipients.
According to a press release from the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office, callers, claiming to be from the federal government, typically tell potential victims the government is taking steps to protect senior citizens from the expected federal default.
The caller then asks for account information to verify benefits to guarantee benefit checks continue. Such vital information can quickly line the pockets of clever identity thieves.
There are numerous other scams, including but not limited to the Nigerian, who needs help getting millions of dollars out of the country and for a few thousand of your dollars you’ll get a few million; to companies that claim to be identity theft-prevention services and even the you’ve-won-a-prize contest calls that ask for your Social Security and credit card numbers before fowarding your luxurious prize.
It’s hard to believe that people fall for such scams. Yet, they do and for various reasons whether they’re gullible or just greedy. And the sad part is the scammers often get away with it.
We cannot caution you enough to guard your personal information.
Don’t ever give out any personal information over the phone or online unless you are familiar with the business asking for it. Ditto on prize claims. If it is a legitimate contest, the organization will provide a written application form.
There is an old adage that goes, “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.” That is the case with promises of large sums of money for some of your upfront good-faith cash.
If you fall for this scam you’re going to be left holding the bag – an empty one at that.