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Just don’t talk to those people

Phone calls, emails, texts, even snail mail — all are avenues scammers take advantage of in order to take advantage of potential victims. Most of their victims are elderly, which has prompted North Carolina’s Attorney General, Josh Stein, to launch Operation Silver Shield, a North Carolina Department of Justice effort to protect people from scams, take legal action against fraudsters when necessary and educate people about how best to keep themselves, their parents and their grandparents safe, according to a press release from Stein’s office.

Here are some startling statistics: in February alone, there were 68 elder fraud complaints made to the North Carolina Attorney General’s office, and $606,605.25 was lost to scammers in that single month. Six people lost $306,650 in sweetheart scams, “a confidence trick involving feigning romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud.” Nine people lost $276,550 in sweepstakes scams, in which consumers are told they’ve won a prize, yet have to send money to get their prize, which can drag on until the “winner” spends untold amounts of money trying to claim a prize that never existed.

Now that tax season is rolling around, Stein’s office is warning people to look out for IRS scams. Here’s a few things every taxpayer should know: the IRS will never, ever, call you and demand money. They will never call you, period. If you owe the IRS money, the IRS will send you an official letter in the mail. If someone claiming to be an IRS agent calls you and threatens you with immediate arrest unless you pay “back taxes,” this is a scam. You will not be arrested; instead, you need to hang up and report the scam to law enforcement. Do not give out any personal information — not Social Security numbers, not bank account numbers, not PIN numbers for accounts — because callers of this type seeking that information over the phone are likely seeking it to commit fraud.

As one “scam-stopper” says: “The key is: Don’t talk to these people.”

But do talk to friends, family and law enforcement if you think, even for a moment, that you could be the victim of a scam.