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Too good to be true

Published 9:21pm Saturday, October 12, 2013

Linda Rawlinson did not, as the old saying goes, just fall off the turnip truck.

When she received two calls recently informing her that she’d won a million and a half dollars and a Mercedes Benz from the Winners International Awards, she did not do as the callers suggested and run out to Walmart, put $300 on a cash card and mail it off to their Las Vegas address.

Instead she called the police — and then this newspaper — and received confirmation of what she already suspected: The call was a scam.

“It seems like to me it would be worth the public knowing,” she told news editor Tracy Agnew last week.

Indeed. And Suffolk police say that Rawlinson’s call is just one of those they’ve been told about in recent weeks. It seems there’s always someone out there who would like to make money by preying on the dreams and trust of others.

Whether it’s identity theft, construction scams, flimflams or health care fraud, scammers are always on the prowl for credulous people to take advantage of. Rawlinson was too smart for them, but many people, unfortunately, wind up losing money to these sorts every year.

To avoid becoming a victim, follow these suggestions from the FBI:

4Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity. If you get brochures about costly investments, ask someone whose financial advice you trust to review them.

4Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center or other watchdog groups. However, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.

4Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. Some con artists give out false names, telephone numbers, addresses, and business license numbers. Verify the accuracy of these items.

4Don’t pay in advance for services. Pay for services only after they are performed.

4Be wary of companies that want to send a messenger to your home to pick up money, claiming it is part of their service to you.

4Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you to make a snap decision.

4Don’t pay for a “free prize.” If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.

4Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member or financial adviser.

4Never respond to an offer you don’t understand thoroughly.

4Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or Social Security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.

4If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local or federal law enforcement agencies.

Perhaps the best advice comes from another old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

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