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If a cash prize sounds too good to be true, authorities are asking people to take another look before they get fleeced.
Scams seem to pop up no matter the economic climate, though two new schemes have Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile issuing new words of warning.
The first of those scams involves Green Dot reloadable debit cards and the promise of millions in prize money.
Faile recently received an email from a concerned resident whose friend had fallen victim to such a scam.
In the email, the friend detailed how a Lancaster County resident had received a phone message from an alleged representative of Publishers Clearing House. After calling the provided phone number, the man was instructed by a recording to leave his name and number.
About an hour later, a man called him back to announce he had won $3 million, plus an additional $30,000 and two “chance cards,” Faile said.
But in order to receive the money, the man was instructed to go to Walmart and purchase two $500 Green Dot cards. He was also told to call the representative and provide him the numbers on the back of each card.
After giving him the numbers, the victim was told to meet the representative at his former home, though the representative never showed up, Faile said.
The man’s friend contacted the Publishers Clearing House Fraud Department to report the scam, but the victim’s money was already gone.
This isn’t the first time Faile has heard of such a crime.
“People are falling for it and I just want to get the word out to people that this is a scam,” Faile said.
He cautions people not to fall for any prize that requires a monetary contribution after you win.
“That’s just an easy way to scam these folks. They are just looking for the number off the Green Dot card,” Faile said. “And these people can be anywhere in the world.”
Though the sheriff’s office receives complaints about some scams, most go unreported.
“We’ve got some people who won’t tell us it even happened because they are so embarrassed,” he said.
Faile also received a warning recently from the Internal Revenue Service of another new phone scam targeting taxpayers. As part of the scam, victims are told they owe money to the IRS which must be paid immediately using a pre-loaded debit card or a wire transfer.
Many who refuse to participate are threatened with arrest or even deportation, if they are immigrants, Faile reported.
The report cautions that the IRS does not request funds through debit cards or wire transfers and never asks for credit card numbers over the phone.
Though these are two of the latest scams, Faile said they are often cyclical and new ones always pop up to take their place.
“There’s usually one or two (scams) that get going and run for so long, but once everyone figures it out they move on to another scam,” he said. “These Green Dot cards and the publishers sweepstakes are the hot topic right now.”
He urges all victims, or potential victims, of scams to call the sheriff’s office at (803) 283-4136.
“We’ll be glad to talk to and assure them what is or isn’t a scam,” Faile said. “Usually Publishers Clearing House and similar sweepstakes are a surprise and you don’t need to send money in to get your prize. As for Green Dot, it’s easy to tell someone to go to Walmart and get the card, but once they get ahold of that number then the money is gone.”