There’s an old saying that has never applied more than in the internet age: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Each of us has probably seen some kind of offer online — a car that’s priced way below its market value, an email informing you that you’ve won a lottery you don’t remember entering, or a stranger detailing a plan to transfer a huge sum of cash into your bank account — that couldn’t possibly be real. Yet, despite all of the warning flags surrounding these types of ‘deals,’ there are still many individuals who find themselves taken in by scams that end up costing them thousands of dollars.
Westborough Police are reminding people to be vigilant when dealing with unusual financial transactions or offers in order to protect themselves from both financial and potential identity theft as well. Offers to transfer money into your bank account — a portion of which you get to keep — are almost always bids from criminals to gain access to your banking details in order to defraud you.
More insidious are newer variations on these scams — sometimes called 419 or Nigerian scams due to their primary country of origin — where an overseas seller of a big ticket item such as a car or home theater equipment asks for you to send them a Western Union money transfer to seal the deal. In reality, there is no product to buy, and victims are left without any real recourse for having their money returned to them.
This scam can go both ways, with individuals offering to pay for an item via a check that is for an amount greater than the actual sale price. They ask the seller to return the difference, and once that is done, it is revealed that the check was bogus and the depositor is liable for the entire amount. Sometimes, this variation on the con comes in the form of out-of-the-blue lottery winnings, inheritances, or insurance settlements that require you to return a portion of a check sent to you to pay for ‘processing fees.’
Once again; if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you feel uncomfortable about a potential transaction online, or if you are suspicious about a piece of mail or check that you received, remember that you can always contact your local police department and verify the legitimacy of the deal before committing to follow through.
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