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Behind the Badge Avoid becoming the victim of a phone scam

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Mike Kermgard

Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:55 am, Mon Aug 1, 2011.

Telephone scams have become increasingly popular among scam artists who like to prey on people and their good nature. There are many types of phone scams, but most all will have one thing in common: money.

One such common example of a phone scam is to receive a call from someone claiming to be a loved one, a distant relation, a friend, etc. The caller will usually state they have allergies, the flu, laryngitis or some reason their voice isn't quite the way you recognize it. The caller will then state they are in some kind of trouble, and need money sent to them right away to help out. The caller will usually sound very believable, and will prey on your sympathies to get the money to them ASAP.

Fortunately, most people recognize it as a scam; however, there are many who don't, and they can be out hundreds or thousands of dollars after it's too late.

Many victims whom I speak with often state how much the caller knew about them, and therefore had a hard time believing that it actually wasn't a family member or friend in need of money.

The unfortunate truth is, these scam artists do nothing but scam people. That is their chosen profession. They work nights, holidays and weekends, and they are quite good at what they do. They have absolutely no remorse at all, and do not care that they may have scammed an unsuspecting 90-year-old grandparent old out of their life savings.

The Internet provides all the information necessary for a scam artist to know that you are a grandmother, a mother, a father, etc., and can also provide family member names and their places of residence. Have you ever typed your own name into an Internet search engine? The results can be quite shocking.

Many Internet name search data bases have ways to remove your personal information. It is usually pretty well hidden, but it should be there someplace. It is, of course, a neverending battle, and potentially a losing battle at that, to keep your personal information off the Internet, but it may be a battle worth fighting.

Locating these scam artists often proves challenging, as most of them originate in a different country. Caller ID is often worthless, thanks to the Internet services which provide free phone numbers and spoofed phone numbers, which can make call tracing sometimes impossible.

As always, the best defense is usually a good offense. When people call requesting anything, question them, and do not offer any personal information over the phone unless you are 100 percent sure whom you are talking to.

Trust your instincts. There are probably thousands of different phone scams, and I have only covered one of them. If something seems wrong, or seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at jbiskup@pd.lodi.gov; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.

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