Scam hits SAEC

Published 7:23 pm Monday, August 25, 2014

We like to think we can’t be duped by financial scams, but according to a recent survey the numbers say otherwise. The survey found that eight in 10 adults received some type of fraudulent offer, and 11 percent lost a substantial amount of money in a scam. Surprisingly, 40 percent of people did not recognize the warning signs of a financial scam.

Although senior citizens are targeted slightly more often by fraudulent schemes, anyone can fall victim. Scams work when people forget an important axiom: What seems too good to be true almost always is. The methods used to part you from your hard-earned money are varied and always changing.

“This weekend, our customers received calls from people representing themselves as employees of South Alabama Electric,” Chellie Phillips, SAEC communications director said. “They were told our trucks were one the way to disconnect their power unless they paid now. South Alabama Electric will never call you concerning a disconnection or for payment. These communications happen by mail. You can pay online or by phone, but you have to initiate that call and have your account information to be able to make that payment. We urge you to hang up if you receive one of these calls. You can always call our main office and confirm the status of your account with one of our employees.”

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How can you protect yourself? Be diligent in keeping personal and financial information private, and maintain a sense of skepticism when conducting business with new contacts. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

· Tread carefully online. If you receive unsolicited emails or click on pop-up windows, understand these can be run by phishers. Never send personal information electronically unless you’re making a purchase from a website you trust or opening a secure online account with an institution you’ve chosen to contact.

· Establish who you’re dealing with. Before sharing personal information or making a payment, get a salesperson’s name, company name, physical address (not a P.O. Box), phone number and business license number. Research the entity on your own, inspecting its website and checking with the Better Business Bureau.

· Take your time. A legitimate business or government agency will not push you into making an immediate decision or payment. Scam artists capitalize on the fear of “missing out,” or when making fake threats, they pressure you into a quick decision.

· Be cautious about certain methods of payment. Wiring money is equivalent to sending cash—and it’s often untraceable. So is getting a Green Dot or other type of card you preload with cash.

“South Alabama Electric has notified local police that these calls are occurring,” Phillips said. “We urge you to report any calls of this nature to your local police department. As a member owned cooperative, our goal is to look out for you.”