Be wary of phone scams

 

Every year, thousands of people lose money to telephone scams — from a few dollars to their life savings. Scammers will say anything to cheat people out of money.

Do not give a credit card, debit card, or prepaid cash card number or any personal information ever to an unsolicited caller. Maybe you have a guilty conscience because you owe money to the IRS, are late on a utility bill, or skipped a credit card payment, but that’s exactly what scammers are hoping for.

There is currently an ongoing phone scam that involves IRS fraud. According to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, the scam follows a familiar pattern:

The victim receives a call or a phone message asking for money because, as the caller explains, the victim owes money to the IRS. If the money is not paid, the caller warns, a warrant will be issued for the victim’s arrest.

A recent victim of this scam in Tulare County received a voicemail message, returned the call, and spoke to a man who advised her to pay thousands of dollars within 48 hours to avoid arrest. The victim obtained prepaid VISA cards and provided the cards’ information to the suspects.

“We want to educate everyone so they can help protect themselves,” said Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. “Rest assured, the IRS and law enforcement agencies do not and will not call you and ask for credit card numbers over the phone nor will they request a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.”

If you do receive this type of phone call, hang up immediately. If you receive a voice message, do not return the phone call.

Here is how to avoid becoming a victim of one of these prevalent phone scams:

—Say “No, thank you,” and hang up the phone.

—Never send money.

—Never provide personal information or credit card numbers to an unknown caller.

—If you become a victim, report the incident to the local law enforcement agency.

—If you still think the caller is legitimate, hang up and call the agency or company using the phone number provided on an official invoice or website. Most likely you will discover it was not them calling for an immediate payment and threatening arrest.

 

Be on the lookout for human trafficking

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office also wants to educate the public about one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises: human trafficking. It’s modern-day slavery where people — mostly women and children — are sold, bought, and traded.

In March, state legislation was introduced to combat human trafficking by creating the Statewide Interagency Human Trafficking Task Force. The task force’s initial priorities will be to identify data-driven solutions to combatting slavery, improving interagency cooperation, and increasing public awareness.

Each year, nearly 20,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. They are recruited by coercion, deceit, or abduction, then forced into prostitution, servitude, free labor, forced marriage, or organ removal.

“A victim of human trafficking may look like many of the people you see every day,” said Sheriff Boudreaux. “Ask the right questions and look for clues. You are vital because you may be the only outsider with the opportunity to speak with a victim.

Know the signs of an exploited person:

—Works long, unusual hours.

—Not free to come or go during or after work hours.

—Denied medical care or services by employer.

—Not paid, paid very little, or paid only by tips.

To report a crime, call the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, (559) 733-6218 or email info@tularesheriff.info.

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