When someone asks you for money or personal information, how do you know if the request is legitimate?
The Harvey County Sheriff's Office spoke to residents at Newton Presbyterian Manor about frauds and scams that have been popping up in the county lately.
One warning sign that people should be wary of is any request for money up front for a prize or contest that they are told they have won.
"There's no reason why you should have to pay for a prize that you have won," said Senior Investigator Robert Guest. "It is a gift to you and you don't pay for gifts that are given to you."
The same principle applies when dealing with scammers who come to your door offering to do repair work to your home.
"Usually, after a storm, you will get someone who shows up at your house...don't give these people any money up front," Guest said. "If you have a problem with your home, do the research, find a reputable repairman and maybe get several different quotes from several different people."
Any door-to-door salespeople must have a permit from the city and should be able to produce it for you.
"Work from home" scams tell people they can earn money by doing simple tasks in the comfort of their living room, but often ask for money up front to send out the supplies needed for the job.
Never send money to a person you meet on online dating sites or apps. Requests for money to help a person or their relatives get out of the country are often a scam.
You may receive an email stating you have been left an inheritance and asking for your bank account numbers or Social Security number in order to transfer the money. Those emails are from scammers trying to gain your personal information.
"If you just stop and take two minutes to try to verify the information, nine times out of 10 you'll see that it's a fraud," Guest said. "And if you're not sure, call us."
Another common scam is receiving an item in the mail that you did not order.
"You'll start getting a bill or an invoice from the company who sent it to you," Guest said.
The company will not allow you to return the item, but will demand payment for it. If that happens, you should contact the sheriff's office.
Calls claiming to be from a charitable organization soliciting donations should be handled with care.
"If anyone comes to you from a charity, look them up," Guest urged.
Legitimate callers should be able to politely answer any questions you have and provide information so that you can research their organization and decide whether you want to donate money at a later date.
"They will either give you some information that you can follow up on or they will pressure you into giving to that charity," Guest said.
"There are times during the year when you will get calls from an organization that does raise money for local sheriff's departments," noted Sheriff Chad Gay. "But if you ask them questions and really dig into it, they'll answer those questions with no pressure whatsoever."
High-pressure tactics and displays of impatience are signs of a scam.
"If they're pressuring you about giving them your information or they won't give you information that you can follow up on, that's also another red flag for you," Guest said. "Usually, the charities are frauds and if you really look into them, you'll find that."
You can also use online searches to look up phone numbers that are unfamiliar to see if there have been prior complaints of scamming associated with them.
No telemarketer should curse at you, threaten you or call you late at night.
"Telemarketers are only allowed to contact you during normal hours that are not inconvenient for you," Guest said. "They can't harass you at your job or call you at 9 o'clock at night unless you've made arrangements for them to do so."
One scam that can trip up grandparents is a call that is supposedly from a grandchild in trouble. The caller will act as if they are in distress, saying that their car broke down or they were thrown in jail. They will then beg for money, saying that they do not want to call their parents.
"They are very convincing," Gay said. "Those folks are very good at what they do."
Scammers have even found ways to fool caller ID and make it look like they are calling from a government organization. People have received fraudulent calls where they are told they owe taxes to the IRS and will be arrested if they do not pay over the phone.
"If you look at your caller ID, it looks like it's coming from Washington, D.C.," Gay said. "It looks legit and they sound legitimate."
Similarly, calls that say you have a warrant out for your arrest and that you need to pay a fine may look like they are coming from the courthouse, but they are fake.
If you have questions about anything you think might be a scam or want to report being the victim of fraud, contact the Harvey County Sheriff's Office at 316-284-6960.