More scams mean added vigilance

Published 10:38 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It’s been said before but it bears repeating: Don’t give out any personal financial information over the phone.

In recent weeks, customers of South Alabama Electric Cooperative have received phone calls from individuals claiming to be representatives of the company. Their message is always the same: your account is past due and you need to pay, via telephone, to prevent an interruption of service.

It’s a scam, pure and simple. And these scammers are savvy enough to have the SAEC phone number register on caller ID, which further confuses customers. Sadly, scams such as this are becoming more and more commonplace as folks looking to make an easy buck become more adept at using technology and more convincing in their ploys. That’s why consumers must be increasingly vigilant in their day-to-day lives to protect their funds and their identities. The Federal Trade Commission offers valuable advice about all kinds of scams, from identity theft to phone scams, on its website (, including this advice on how to handle phone calls:

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

• Resist pressure to make a decision immediately.

• Keep your credit card, checking account, or Social Security numbers to yourself. Don’t tell them to callers you don’t know — even if they ask you to “confirm” this information. That’s a trick.

• Don’t pay for something just because you’ll get a “free gift.”

• Get all information in writing before you agree to buy.

• Check out a charity before you give. Ask how much of your donation actually goes to the charity. Ask the caller to send you written informa¬tion so you can make an informed decision without being pressured, rushed, or guilted into it.

• If the offer is an investment, check with your state securities regulator to see if the offer — and the offeror — are properly registered.

• Don’t send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you use cash or a money transfer — rather than a credit card — you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges. The money will be gone.

• Don’t agree to any offer for which you have to pay a “registration” or “shipping” fee to get a prize or a gift.

• Never respond immediately to calls for payment. Always hang up and call your service provide back, with your bill or account information.

• Beware of offers to “help” you recover money you have already lost. Callers that say they are law enforcement officers who will help you get your money back “for a fee” are scammers.

•Report any caller who is rude or abusive, even if you already sent them money. They’ll want more. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit

And the best advice is this: if you get a call that makes you wary or uncomfortable, don’t respond. Take down information and a call back number and contact law enforcement officers, who will be glad to help you decipher if it’s a scam or a legitimate call.