A few years ago I noticed three $1 payments made from my checking account to a credit reporting agency.

The bank refunded my $3 for the cyber theft and told me to file a police report, which I did. The officer said the charges were probably a first step in trying to create new credit accounts in my name. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

As our technology and population has grown, so has the number of crooks looking to take our money and the ways they go about it. Hacking, door-to-door scams, phone scams, mimicking government agencies by mail or phone — thieves are using every available tool to steal from us.

Earlier this year the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office rolled out a program to help deter a growing scam involving gift cards. The program involves placing signs warning people about the scams before they buy hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of gift cards in response to a phone call they’ve gotten.

“In most scenarios, the victim receives a phone call from someone saying they are in trouble, a loved one is in trouble or that the victim has a warrant out for his/her arrest. The suspect asks the victim to purchase gift cards and deliver them to the sheriff’s office or one of its precincts, making the request seem legitimate,” said sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker. “However, during the time between purchasing the gift cards and delivering them to the law enforcement agency, the suspect will ask for the numbers on the back of the cards. Once they have that, the money is gone.”

There are other variations to the gift card scam, Baker said. “The bottom line is if anyone that you don’t know recommends you purchase a gift card for payment you are likely being scammed.”

I got an email from a reader recently about a piece of mail he received that he suspected to be a Medicare scam. He passed along a copy of the letter, which encouraged him to call a toll-free number to learn about various Medicare plans. The mailer was at best deceptive. It’s for a business that appears to be a clearinghouse for information on various Medicare Advantage supplemental insurance plans offered by a wide range of issuers.

That mailer reminded me of a letter I received a few years earlier pointing out, in a threatening tone, posters explaining the minimum wage and other labor rules were required to be displayed in the workplace and offering to sell them for more than $100. Fortunately, I knew the posters referenced in the letter were available for free from the state Department of Labor. But, there are others who didn’t, or this scam wouldn’t be carried out.

A couple of police reports have been filed recently in Cherokee County by veterans who were reporting scams targeting them. In both instances a man approached veterans at their homes saying he was from the Veterans Administration and could help them receive additional benefits, but needed them to pay $1,500 to process paperwork. In one instance the man was paid $1,500 and $750 in the other.

Another reader recently called me and said she was receiving up to 20 robocalls a day. Whether for marketing or scamming, that’s a lot. There is some action on that front as attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with 12 phone companies are asking the Federal Communications Commission to work with them to crack down on robocalls by making it easier for consumers to block them and for violators to be punished.

The lesson here is, I suppose, that there are more ways than ever for thieves to try and take what’s ours. And, we have to use a high degree of skepticism whenever anyone asks us for anything.

Gary Tanner is managing editor of the Cherokee Tribune, Cherokee Ledger-News and Cherokee Life magazine.

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