The attempts are all too common. Their success should not be.
In one instance, an Orangeburg business owner was taken advantage of by scammers posing as representatives of the Department of Public Utilities.
According to DPU, the business received a call from someone named “Michael” claiming to represent the Orangeburg utility. The business owner was told his bill was a month past due and the power would be shut off within an hour unless he made a payment over the phone.
Through a process outlined by “Michael,” the business owner made a payment of $400 – and upon inquiring with DPU found out he had been scammed.
DPU will never try to collect a payment in such a manner. Nor will other utilities or reputable businesses, agencies and organizations.
But scammers are hoping to find just a few people willing to go along. And they try in all kinds of ways.
Recently, Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell warned about a scam using his department's name. An individual is targeting seniors with threats that a warrant has been issued for their arrest. The scammer states a $500 payment to him will negate the warrant.
And then there are the scammers posing as IRS investigators, calling to tell a resident he or she owes taxes and will be arrested if the taxes are not paid via the method outlined by the caller.
There are many other ways in which people are attempting to separate you from your money.
The S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs Identity Theft Unit fielded more than 750 scam report calls between Jan. 1 and June 30. Nearly half were imposter scams (46 percent), while the debt-collection and sweepstakes scams had 11 percent each.
In total, consumers reported actual losses of more than $750,000 from scams, and the potential loss of more than $760,000 by those who did not fall victim to the scams they reported.
A YouGov survey commissioned by CPR Call Blocker has similar findings.
Alarmingly 89 percent of people in South Carolina receive between five and 30 nuisance calls per week. And a fifth of South Carolina adults admit they have been a victim of a telephone scam.
The survey found the top five are:
1. IRS scam
2. Credit/loan scam
3. Robocall/automated messages scam
4. Lottery/sweepstakes scam
5. Missed call scam
While many people are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to spotting a scam, 17 percent of those questioned have lost money to scams in the last 12 months. Of those, 23 percent lost less than $100, 22 percent lost between $100 and $500, but 27 percent lost between $500 and $10,000, with 4 percent scammed out of more than $10,000.
If you’re contacted out of the blue, be suspicious and never respond to an unsolicited call. Don’t assume a caller is genuine because he or she has information about you such as your account details.
Never give out personal information when answering an incoming call, and if you’re not convinced the call is genuine, hang up and call back using the official phone number of the organization calling from their website or any paperwork you have, such as statements.
Scam reporting is an important step in helping empower consumers to recognize and avoid scams.
To report a scam, call the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs at 800-922-1594 or 803-734-4200.
Orangeburg DPU can be reached at 803-268-4100 for any questions about bills.
Suspicious calls can also be reported to the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety at 803-533-4110, the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office at 803-534-3550 or Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.