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Part No.1: With the New Year comes new scams


It is that time of year when scammers seem to hit the hardest, according to Prairie County Sheriff Rick Hickman. Many calls have been received through the department about such scams. 

The sheriff would like to warn residents so they do now fall victim, which can lead to identity theft, loosing money among other hardships for county residents. 

"if it sounds to good to be true, it more than likely is and is more than likely is a scam," he explains. "Also this thieves prey on individuals thinking they have outstanding debts with the IRS or other government entities."   

According to the Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, consumers conduct business transactions every day. They buy cars, shop at clothing stores, use their cellphones and pay medical bills. These transactions, more often than not, take place with legitimate businesses and without problems.

Scam artists connive and swindle consumers to make a quick profit, she explains. They sell fake products and services or promise $1 millions for only a small investment of time or money. Consumers must be vigilant and cautious when presented with an offer that sounds too good to be true.

Some of the most common scams hitting the area at this time include: 

  • Charity Scams: When individuals decide to support a cause they care about, they want your donation to count. Doing some research and planning can help ensure the donations get where they’ll do good. Here are tips to help you plan your donation– and avoid scams. Do some research online
    • Looking for a charity to support? Search for a cause you care about – like “hurricane relief” or “homeless kids” – and phrases like “best charity” or “highly rated charity.”
    • When you consider giving to a specific charity, search its name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”
    • Use these organizations to help you research charities.
  • It’s your lucky day! You just won a foreign lottery! The letter says so. And the cashier’s check to cover the taxes and fees is included. All the individual has to do to get their winnings is deposit the check and wire the money to the sender to pay the taxes and fees. Then supposedly it is guaranteed that when they get the payment, the resident gets their prize.

    There’s just one catch: This is a scam. The check is no good, even though it appears to be a legitimate cashier’s check. The lottery angle is a trick to get residents to wire money to someone they don’t know. If individuals were to deposit the check and wire the money, the bank would soon learn that the check was a fake. And you’re out the money because the money wired can’t be retrieved, and it's then the person responsible for the checks they deposited — even though individuals don’t know they’re fake. This is just one example of a counterfeit check scam that could leave you scratching your head.

  • Since 2008, the attorney general’s office has worked to eliminate all forms of payday lending in Arkansas. Payday lending is the practice of extending short-term loans at high annual percentage rates. It also includes so-called “installment” loans with longer terms, which carry high interest rates. Though all storefront payday loan operations in Arkansas have been shut down, these usurious loans are still available on the internet. Most online payday lenders have “roll-over” provisions that direct most, if not all, of a debtor’s payments toward loan fees without reducing the amount borrowed. How to spot a payday loan:

    • High Interest Rate: Payday loans typically carry triple-digit interest rates or high fees, even if the fees are not called “interest;"
    • Short Terms: Typically, a payday loan is payable within two weeks to one month, and
    • Direct Bank Account Access: Payday lenders usually require information about the borrower’s bank account, either through a check written to the lender or through electronic access.
  • “Congratulations! You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000,000 U.S. CASH! One Lump sum! Tax free! Your odds to win are one in six. Hundreds of U.S. citizens win every week using our secret system! You can win as much as you want!” Sounds great right? But it is a scam. Scam operators — often based in Canada — are using the telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to buy chances in high-stakes foreign lotteries from as far away as Australia and Europe. These lottery solicitations violate U.S. law, which prohibits the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail. Still, federal law enforcement authorities are intercepting and destroying millions of foreign lottery mailings sent or delivered by the truckload into the U.S. And consumers, lured by prospects of instant wealth, are responding to the solicitations that do get through — to the tune of $120 million a year, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says most promotions for foreign lotteries are likely to be phony. Many scam operators don’t even buy the promised lottery tickets. Others buy some tickets, but keep the “winnings” for themselves. In addition, lottery hustlers use victims’ bank account numbers to make unauthorized withdrawals or their credit card numbers to run up additional charges.

There are 10 more scams that the sheriff's Department will help explain in the coming weeks. 

"We want to keep our residents as safe as possible from these scams," Hickman explained. 

The series on scams will continue each week. So please make sure to read through each one to see if you have received this type of phone call or mail. Residents are urged to contact the PCSD about any scam (new or old) so that they can keep up to date on the newer scams and get the word out to other residents of the county.