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Caveat Emptor, scams abound now more than ever

    The Latin phrase Caveat Emptor is ancient but now more than ever, buyers must beware.
    Rarely a month goes by that we don’t run a report on a scam where a victim is talked or e-mailed out of hard-earned money.
    The scams aren’t new and tend to fall into these same old pitches:
    • A deal where you send money first and are promised a prize, a vacation or more money in exchange later; 
    • You are asked to pay some type of fee for a wonderful job or to avoid a fine. These often arrive as an official looking e-mail claiming to be from the IRS, your bank, or local law enforcement.
    • You are asked to provide private information such as credit card, social security or bank account numbers and then your account is used for someone to go on a spending spree or in elaborate identity theft crimes.
    Con artists are nothing new, but the internet has made it possible for thieves in other countries to contact you directly and you can forget about prosecution, or restitution when your hard earned money ended up overseas.
    Recently we ran a “Help Wanted” in the paper that apparently was a sham: No job and at some point, the person who placed the ad would have either asked for some type of money up front or for personal information. We cancelled the ad after it came to our attention and one person who called the number also reported it to the local authorities.   
    Our ads in this newspaper have some added security over postings on free websites in that we charge for them and for all online transactions Paypal is used as our online processor. Paypal is an online leader and does a very good job of spotting fake payments. But, in this case, an ad slipped through.
    We make every effort to watch the ads that appear in our want ads and you can be assured they are infinitely safer than what arrives unsolicited by phone or e-mail. But we can not fully scrutinize every job listing any more than we can test drive every used car. Please let us know if you think an ad is truly criminal (706-253-2457) not just someone overcharging or offering a used mower that may not cut quite as good as promised.

    This week the Cherokee Sheriff's Office also warns against phone scams from people impersonating sheriff's office employees who call citizens to request money. Click here for full press release.
    Any time you buy used machinery, it’s in your best interest to check it out thoroughly and with financial/ employment offers the same caution should apply.
    As we have quoted our local police chief on scams, any time you need to send money orders  outside the United States you can pretty much guarantee it’s a trick.
    And the IRS, courts and banks all stress they will never e-mail or call you for personal or financial data. Think about it, why would a banking officer call to ask what your account number is? Surely, they have the account info to find your phone number in the first place.
    We would further caution against any online or phone solicitation where someone requires a money order . Scam artists prefer money orders because they are so hard to trace back.
    Another common one is someone selling very cheaply or giving away a dog/motorcycle but they need money up front to help with vet/repair bills before they can ship it. Think twice about why someone in a distant place, often in a foreign country, want to ship you a dog or a motorcycle? Don’t fall for it.
    And why would someone e-mail you apparently at random to handle thousands of dollars for them? Or why would some company award you a sweepstakes but first need you to pay them?
    In all cases where you don’t have the security of buying from an established local merchant, be skeptical. If it looks fishy, it is.