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 (A Message from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez)


Most of us think we will never fall prey to a telephone scam.  However, telephone scams take many forms:  winning a prize in a contest you never entered; the newly formed ‘charity’ that is collecting donations for the latest disaster; someone in trouble needing money wired to them.  No matter the ruse, these fast talking con artists have one thing in common, their main goal is to separate you from your money.  No matter the scheme, there are several ‘red flags’ that can alert you to a scam: 

REFUSE TO BE RUSHED.  Always beware of hurried calls.  Whether it is for a product, service or a charity, if you did not initiate the call, do not make a rash decision to purchase or donate.  If it sounds like a product, service or cause you are interested in, ask them to mail you more information.  A legitimate company or charity will comply with your request.  Once you receive the information, be sure to check out the organization with other sources such as the Better Business Bureau or the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation before making your final decision.

 FEES.  If you receive a call stating you have won a contest but in order to collect the prize, you need pay a fee or taxes, it is a scam.  Legitimate contests figure any costs into the entry fees and any taxes due are the responsibility of the winner, upon acceptance of the prize.

 WIRE TRANSFERS.  While wire transfers are a quick, easy way to get cash to someone, beware of any solicitations that insist on a wire transfer instead of a check or money order.  Wire transfers are nearly impossible to reverse once the money is sent, meaning by the time you realize you’ve been scammed, it’s too late to recover the funds.

 ACCOUNT PROBLEMS.  If you receive a call or message that there is a problem with your account, definitely check it out.  However, do so by calling the telephone number on the back of your card or on your statement, not by calling the number left on your answering machine or caller i.d.  Calling the number on documentation you already have insures you are calling the correct institution and it may be helpful to have those documents in hand when making the call.

 ‘EMERGENCY’ CALLS. One of the more recent telephone scams involves a hysterical ‘relative’ calling because they are out of the country and need bail money.  Always verify that the ‘relative’ is in fact who they say they are.  Even though they will make you promise not to call their parents or spouse, do it anyway.  You may find out the ‘relative’ is at home, work or school, right where they are supposed to be.

 Follow your instincts – if a caller makes you nervous or confuses you with a fast talking sales pitch, don’t be afraid to say no and hang up.  If you didn’t initiate the call, don’t offer any personal information.  And most importantly, if an offer seems too good or too outrageous to be true – it probably is. 

 Anita Alvarez

Cook County State’s Attorney

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