Southwest Florida residents are keeping the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line very busy in the first few weeks of 2012 as reports of various frauds and scams are being reported to law enforcement. Despite numerous warnings given to consumers about scammers who prey on unsuspecting seniors, the unemployed looking for work, sympathetic homeowners, cell phone users and credit card holders; hundreds of thousands of dollars continue to be swindled from trustworthy and innocent victims.
Below are a just a few scams that continue to plague our area:
• Door to Door Magazine Solicitation - Many of these companies employ crews of high school and college students who are trying to earn a little extra cash. These crews are sent to communities to knock on doors and sell magazines—most often without appropriate licensing. In the sales pitch, the representative might explain they are working to help get their lives back on track, raising money on behalf of a charity or for a school trip or even selling subscriptions to support troops in Iraq. In the State of Florida, door to door sales are ILLEGAL without a county permit. The sales representative must have in their possession a picture ID with a permit number, expiration date, name, date of birth, address, race, sex, signature, and phone number of the clerk of court in which the permit was obtained. Do not let high pressure sales tactics or sob stories persuade you to part with your money. If you have a door to door sales representative show up at your home, contact the Sheriff’s Office at (239) 477-1000 immediately.
• Internet scams targeting employment and home/vacation rentals are running rampant. If you are looking for a job online, looking to rent a home or offering your home for rent or sale, beware of scammers who offer to pay more then what you are asking or send a check and ask you to wire “excess” money via Western Union or Moneygram. Make sure you confirm the property you are renting is truly available!
• 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. Doing so will give the bad guy your account information. Call your account holder to confirm.
• Sweepstakes/Lottery Scam – This particular scam is generally targeted at our seniors and has literally robbed some of our residents of their life savings. No legitimate sweepstakes or lottery will ask you to pay money up front in order to collect your winnings. NEVER wire money to someone you do not know. If you have been a victim of a sweepstakes/lottery scam or know someone who has, contact the Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line at 239-477-1242.
The list of frauds and scams literally goes on and on. The best way you can avoid becoming a victim is to read all letters and e-mails thoroughly and then throw away or delete false claims and scams, remember you control your finances – if a deal sounds to good to be true, it is most likely false and finally, think realistically and don’t react to anyone who tells you they need your urgent response to close the deal. If you have questions about this or if you have received a call and would like to report it, please contact the Fraud Hotline at 239-477-1242.