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Trust wisely

Sometimes we think it should go without saying, but sometimes it just needs to be said: There are a lot of people out there who are just looking for ways to separate honest people from their hard-earned money.

Among the latest scams aimed at bilking those with a greater sense of trust than some folks deserve is one in which callers claim to be U.S. Marshals, court officers or other law enforcement officials and demanding payment of a “fine” that has supposedly been levied for failing to report for jury duty.

In that scam, the caller preys on those with a sense of duty, along with the fear of being in trouble for not responding to that duty. Those who are called are told they can pay a fine over the phone.

Advanced technology enables the callers to spoof caller ID to make it appear the calls come from actual courthouses or government agencies, and the callers may provide information like badge numbers or the names of actual law enforcement officials or federal judges, along with courthouse addresses.

Victims have been told they can avoid arrest or claim a prize by purchasing a prepaid debit card or gift card and reading that number over the phone to the scammers.

In another of the latest scams, a caller says the recipient is a winner of the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes and directs them to pay a fee in order to claim the prize.

The Marshals Service urges the public not to divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers, even if they sound legitimate. Actual court orders can be verified through the clerk of court’s office of the U.S. District Court in your area.

If you believe you were a victim of such a scam, you are encouraged to report the incident to federal marshals in Norfolk by calling 963-5963.

Don’t be taken for a ride. The U.S. Marshals Service does not call anyone to arrange payment of fines over the phone for failure to appear for jury duty or any other infraction. And nobody from Publishers Clearing House will call and suggest you need to pay a fee in order to collect a prize.

It’s a great thing to trust people, but trust wisely. You’ve worked too hard for your money to simply give it away to crooked people who are willing to put long hours into scamming others, but aren’t willing to actually work for their wages.