Don’t fall for these scams plaguing Tucsonans

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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – Text, email, and phone scams continue to plague Tucsonans sometimes costing them thousands of dollars.

We get answers on how to spot scams and what to do next, as we investigate how often these hoaxes get the better of people.

Oro Valley Police say someone recently lost $10 thousand dollars as a result of fraud.

One scam tricks people into thinking they’ve won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes worth millions in cash and cars.

“I don’t typically answer phone calls from numbers I don’t recognize, so I didn’t answer this call,” said Laurie Jarrett from Oro Valley. “I was really surprised when I received a voicemail message.”

Jarrett says not only did the caller have her cell phone number, but also knew her name.

“Hi Ms. Jarrett my name is John Peterson from PCH, that’s the Publishers Clearance House about $8.5 million you have won and are supposed to be receiving,” said the caller in a voicemail.

“So, I thought I have nothing else to do, so I’m going to give him a call back and see what happens,” said Jarrett.

The caller told Jarrett that in order to claim her prize they needed $400 on a prepaid debit card.

“I mean I knew it was a scam to begin with, I wanted to see how far it would go,” said Jarrett. “I said I’d be more comfortable meeting at the Walgreens and he said that’s not possible you have to meet at your house or at the bank and I said well I don’t want to do that, so thanks goodbye.”

According to the Better Business Bureau nearly 700 scams have been reported in Arizona since January.

The most prevalent consumer scams relate to online purchases, there have been 210 reported. Sixty one related to employment; 45 email phishing; and 34 sweepstakes lottery prize scams. Cryptocurrency scams are also on the rise with 16 being reported.

Victims report losing a few dollars, up to tens of thousands.

Do some of these go unreported?

“Unfortunately, they do. Many times, victims are embarrassed to report it,” said Irene Coppola with the BBB of Southern Arizona. “But it is so important to report it to the BBB, the FBI and call your local police because the more organizations are notified the more we can inform other consumers so this doesn’t continue to happen.”

“Anytime someone is asking you to pay to get a prize that’s a scam,” said Darren Wright, public information officer with the Oro Valley Police department.

Wright says since April 1, his department took 96 reports of fraud. It might seem like a lot, but the good news is it’s down slightly from 111 last year.

“Some of the common scams we’re seeing out here right now that people are falling victim to are: you have a warrant, your social security has been paused, your grandchild is in jail and needs bail money,” said Wright. “Call and verify those things.”

We tried the phone number of the person who called Jarrett’s cell phone, claiming to be from PCH. It went to voicemail. Our call was not returned.

To help prevent the scam from happening to others, Jarrett reported it to the police, her homeowners association, and on her neighborhood Facebook page. Jarrett even reported it to PCH, which has a webpage dedicated to fraud prevention.

“I would feel really bad if I said nothing and someone did fall for the scam,” said Jarrett.

It’s not just senior citizens who are susceptible to scams. A new report by the BBB shows people ages 18 to 34 reported the next highest loss in money.

Experts say beware of unsolicited correspondence. If you don’t remember entering a sweepstakes, then you probably didn’t win.

Never pay to claim a prize or send money to someone you’ve never met face-to-face.

Research the caller’s phone number and how the organization notifies prize winners.

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