Here's the skinny on fending off scammers

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If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. This is an old adage we seem to repeat over and over, and yet it seems to be worth repeating once more as officials from Calabash have been issuing scam alerts to area residents.

The most recently reported scheme involves residents and property owners receiving a letter in the mail stating their water lines are not insured but could be for as little as $5 a month. The letter instructs recipients to fill out an attached form and mail it along with a check or to include credit card information. Recipients are informed they can elect to pay the entire annual amount, $60, or make monthly payments.

The scheme has been perpetrated all across the country as the con artists try to gain access to credit card and checking account information for their own nefarious purposes.

For the people who are wise to this kind of scam, the random mailings can be pitched in the trash where they belong and, more often than not, that’s the end of it.

Other scams spread by phone are more difficult to ignore, even when it’s just a matter of hanging up on the scammer. Sometimes the scam artists make the leap from annoying to harassing, calling all hours of the day many times a day. It seems the only way to make them stop is to change your telephone number. Not many people want to go through that hassle, and why should they have to?

Enter the Federal Trade Commission, the agency that uses taxpayer dollars to help keep money in the pockets of would-be scam targets. Here’s how to contact the FTC about every type of scam out there:

·      To file a report on a company, organization or business practice, call the toll-free helpline, (877) 653-4261.

·      To file a report about identity theft, call (877) ID THEFT (438-4338).

·      Forward unsolicited commercial email (spam), including phishingmessages, directly to the FTC at spam@uce.gov. These messages will be stored in a database law enforcement agencies use in their investigations.

·      To register on the National Do Not Call Registry, go to www.donotcall.govor call 888-382-1222 from the telephone number you want to register.

All of this information and more, including tips about how to avoid falling prey to scams and what to watch out for, can be found online at www.consumer.ftc.gov.