There are people who work as hard to steal your income as you work to earn it. Scams used to be a lot easier to spot than they are lately. As the public grows wise to one scam method, scammers develop new tricks. With increasing technology and means of communication, as well as varying ways to manage funds, there seems to be ever-increasing methods of trying to trick you out of your money.

The Southern Sentinel office has received a number of calls about various scams recently. Concerned individuals have even brought in examples of solicitation they've received. Some of these examples are very believable. They talk about legal requirements and government offices. They may even have some of your correct personal information.

There are some common scams that are easier to identify than others. Some of them involve asking you to purchase a prepaid credit card at a specific location and give them the number. They often promise that a big prize will be coming your way. Others involve calling you about your bank account and asking you to verify personal information. Some scammers will mail you a check for a large sum, asking you to cash it, keep a portion and forward the rest on to them. Yet another scam involves calling people and telling them they have a computer virus, then asking for credit card information for payment for repairing their computer.

When someone seeks your personal identifying information, your banking or credit information or asks you to handle money in an unusual way, caution is likely warranted. Use whatever resources are at your disposal to ensure that you're not falling victim to a scam. If the call is purportedly from someone you do business with on a regular basis - your bank, for example - end the call and call back to the number you normally use. Make sure written communication comes from the mailing address you're accustomed to seeing on your bills and statements.

If you feel you may be being targeted for a scam, you can call the Mississippi Attorney General's office, among others.

Sometimes, it's simply a matter of logic.

For example, it is very unlikely that a company knows you have computer issues unless you contact them. If you haven't contacted anyone for computer service and you haven't noticed any problems with your computer, there's no reason for someone to call and tell you that your computer is infected. If you do have issues with your computer, call the support numbers that came with it or from the company's website, or take it to someone you can trust. There are local computer repair companies.

It's also difficult to imagine a legitimate reason for someone to mail you a large check and invite you to keep part of it. That scam can be very tempting for someone who is in need of cash. The trick to this particular scam, though, is that the check will be returned for insufficient funds. When that happens, you'll be responsible for payment since you cashed it. If a person or company really needed to transfer funds to a third party, they'd send it directly to them.

If you've won a sweepstakes or prize, there will be no reason for you to purchase a gift card or meet anyone at a store. Most prizes like these are delivered to your home or by mail. Bigger prizes, like automobiles, are typically claimed at a dealership - there's a lot of paperwork involved. Also, it's unlikely that you've won a contest that you don't remember entering.

There's no need to become overly worried or paranoid about scams. When something seems a little off or too good to be true, though, extra caution is warranted. You've worked too hard to earn your money to let someone trick you out of it.

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