Be wary of holiday scams

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 29, 2003

Citizens beware. At this time of year, many people try to take advantage of the goodness that lies in peoples hearts.

Unsolicited calls from individuals claiming to represent legitimate charitable organizations prey on unsuspecting individuals; hoping to convince them to send money to help out a worthy cause.

It is unfortunate that during the holidays this criminal activity increases.

In Andalusia, citizens have been victimized by individuals calling and claiming to be either Police Chief Wilbur Williams; or representing the Andalusia Police Department, and soliciting funds.

According to Chief Williams, this is just another in the long line of telephone solicitation scams that people tend to fall victim too.

For internet users, spam e-mails are usually the culprit.

At this heightened time of humanity during the holidays, the e-mails only multiple.

Typically, internet users will receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be a relative of a deceased African official - usually from Zimbabwe or Nigeria.

These e-mails claim that the sender has millions of dollars in US currency stashed away in a bank overseas - protected from the predators in his or her native land. Quite frequently, diamonds or gold are also mentioned. The sender "respectfully requests" that the recipient e-mail back a bank account number for the sender to deposit the money into. In return, the money will be split between the sender and recipient - after taxes - of course.

This is a scam. Don't fall prey to it. What usually happens is the naive recipient loses money he or she has in their bank account, or gets left holding the bag on worthless funds.

Either way, an innocent gets hurt.

This holiday season, whether it be by telephone solicitation or by e-mail - or whatever means - do not fall prey to these scams.

It is said that Christmastime is the time most people are victimized, but that's just the way it is.

Remember, it is always best to not give, than to have been taken by a scammer. And, if you have reason to believe you have fallen victim to a scam, please contact your local law enforcement agency.