Scams come in many forms

Published 7:17 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When Carolyn Thomas of Clanton received a text message informing her she’d won a $25 Walmart gift card and a $50 gas card, she thought it might be legitimate.

But when Thomas called the number to inquire about her “winnings,” the person on the line requested her debit card or credit card number for a one-time mandatory fee of $6.99.

Becoming suspicious, Thomas hung up the phone and reported the incident to Clanton Police.

“They said that was most definitely the right thing to do,” Thomas said. “Never give out your credit card or debit card number over the phone.”

She has since received more of the suspicious text messages but has started to ignore them.

Another Clanton resident, Helen Binion, spotted a check for $3,875 made out to her mother. The check was received in the mail with an enclosed letter that read “Winning Final Notification.”

But there was one catch: “Government taxes cannot be deducted from the winning amount because of the insurance bond policy coverage,” the letter claimed, adding, “The tax amount is USD $2,575 to be paid by Western Union directly to the government tax agent.”

Binion was told by her bank that the check was fraudulent, and that the scams are quite common.

“It looks like a real check,” she said.

Fortunately, Thomas and Binion were wise to the scams. But others have found out the hard way, said Clanton Police Detective Freddie Mayfield.

“What’s sad about it is they pick on the elderly. They pick on the people that can afford it the least,” he said.

One person purchased what he thought to be two laptop computers for a low price, but the cleverly wrapped boxes turned out to contain binders and stacks of notebook paper. Another insisted on wiring a significant amount of money, despite warnings, but ended up losing more than $3,000.

“I’d like to see people be a little more careful about answering such as this,” Mayfield said.

To report a scam, contact your local law enforcement agency.