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Seven tips to avoid phone scams

Police department rep offers advice in response to recent victimization

Jan. 22, 2013

Franklin - The age-old saying that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, holds for phone calls as well.

Residents have recently been targeted by phone scammers using refillable debit cards connected to victims' bank accounts to empty their accounts.

The callers told the victims that they won a sweepstakes or paid vacation. All they needed to do to redeem their prize, the scam went, was purchase and activate a reloadable debit card. The caller would then ask for the number on the back of the card. The scammers would then use that number to empty the victim's bank account.

Some scammers have been falsely calling the debit cards "phone cards" to reduce victims' suspicion. Others have sent fake or stolen checks with the promise of more money to come if the victim gave them their debit card information.

Kim Bogadi of Oak Creek Police Department's community outreach division shared the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:

Do not give out any information to someone who calls you.

Do not call any numbers given to you by someone calling you.

If someone says they are from your bank or a business, hang up, look up the business number on the Internet or phone book, and call that number to verify.

Only trust businesses that you've had a prior relationship with. Never give a business information that could be used against you.

Don't feel pressured by anyone calling you.

Be wary of telemarketers asking for bank information, as it is illegal for them to ask.

Inform any elderly or young family members not to give sensitive information over the phone.

Bogadi added that phone scams can take on a number of faces.

"The biggest thing is that they shouldn't be falling for anything that sounds too good to be true," she said. "The best way to handle it is if it sounds suspicious, notify the police department."

Another scam at this time of year involves scammers posing as members of the IRS or FBI, requesting bank information or social security card information under threats of audit and then using the information to steal the victim's identity.

Bogadi added that anyone who feels they've been the victim of a phone scam should identify the police immediately. They can also call the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Agency hotline at (800) 422-7128.

For more information on protection against identity theft, visit datcp.wi.gov.

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