Phone scam offers phony prize

The Kingman Police Department has received several recent complaints of phone scams, one in the last week involving a caller who promises a large cash prize to victims in exchange for credit card information.

The caller, saying he is from the "National Clearinghouse," tells a victim they won $100,000 in cash and in order for the victim to collect the money, they need to send $2,000 or give out their credit card number to the caller, KPD spokeswoman Tracie McKnight said.

"We want to warn people not to fall for this and that it is illegitimate," McKnight said.

"If you have won a prize, you will never need to send money or give a credit card number."

Another scam that has surfaced in Kingman recently is where a person calls and offers a victim a pre-approved credit card.

The caller then asks for the victim's savings account number.

Never give out your bank or credit card information to solicitors, McKnight said.

By giving an unknown solicitor your bank account number, they can use it to withdraw your money without your knowledge, she said.

Most telephone scams target the elderly and with Kingman's large retirement community, the area is a prime target for phone scams.

About 80 percent of telemarketing is aimed at senior citizens, McKnight said.

About $40 billion is lost each year nationwide to telephone scams.

That would pay for nursing home care for more than a million seniors for an entire year, she said.

About 14,000 telemarketing groups operate in the country.

Of that, about 10 percent of telemarketers are illegal.

Most illegal telemarketers are calling from another state or even another country, McKnight said.

KPD has received about 36 fraudulent call complaints so far this year with many more complaints without substantiated leads listed as suspicious activities.

Last year, the department received about 43 complaints, she said.

According to McKnight, telemarketers can buy your phone number and other vital information.

If someone enters a sweepstakes or a contest to win a trip or prize, they are placed on lists.

Telemarketers can get your information by paying for lists from bank card companies, magazines and membership organizations, she said.

Many sweepstakes are only ploys to get your name, address or phone number.

Don't give your credit card number out over the phone unless you make the call.

If possible, people should check out the organization they are sending money to.

Ask for the name and phone number of the manager.

If they refuse to give it out, hang up, she said.

Some of the things people can do to protect themselves is ask a telemarketer for the name and address of their company.

Ask the caller to send you written material to look at, including a money-back guarantee before you buy something and about the company's refund policies, she added.

Consumers can also call the Better Business Bureau of the state Attorney General's office or a local consumer protection service in the city or state where the company is located and ask for any complaints against that company, McKnight said.

In addition, she advises talking to friends or relatives, a lawyer or a banker for advice before making a large purchase or investment.

As far as contests are concerned, don't pay for a prize or send money to improve your chances to winning, she said.

It is illegal for someone to ask you to pay to enter a contest.

If a caller says you have to make up your mind now, it's probably a scam.

Hang up if the caller persists after you say no, she said.

Upon request, KPD offers classes on telephone fraud.

Report suspicious telemarketing calls, junk mail or advertisements to the National Fraud Information Center at 1-800-875-7060.