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Every year growing numbers of people fall victim to fraudulent scams.  This is a worldwide problem that continues to grow and can affect anyone.  The Gulfport Police Department is urging its citizens to report any possible scams you encounter. The Gulfport Police Department also would like to inform the public on how to recognize a scam and what to do if you feel that you are being scammed.

What is a scam? A scam is a dishonest attempt to entice you into giving away something of value, like money. A ‘scammer’ may personally approach you, with an offer too good to be true. Scammers may also utilize email, telephone, text-messages or post an offer that is fraudulent. Scammers often use persuasive techniques that can be hard to resist even to normally prudent people.

Scams include, but are not limited to, peddling products door to door, soliciting magazine subscriptions, asphalt paving, concrete installation, liquidation sales, trademark violations, advance fee frauds, check or money order scams, charity scams, 419 scam, 809/890 scams, badge charity scams, bait and switch, mystery shoppers, payment forwarding, pigeon drop, skimming, slamming, etc.

Here is a brief list of possible warning signs that you are possibly being scammed.

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
  • The approach has come as a complete surprise.
  • The scammer does not address you by name.
  • There is an insistence on urgency and on confidentiality.
  • You’re supplied with many seemingly official-looking documents that are actually forgeries.
  • There’s an early request for detailed personal information such as addresses, date of birth, bank account details, social security numbers or identification such as a passport.
  • Emails supposedly coming from legitimate-sounding government agencies or financial institutions are actually sent from free email accounts like yahoo, hotmail, gmail or others.
  • The scammer uses mobile phone numbers rather than official company landlines.
  • Each fee is said to be the last.
  • The scammer may claim to have personally paid some of the fee in order to build up your trust.
  • No refunds available after purchase.
  • Business is only in town for a few days or weeks before moving to the next location.
  • No contracts are required.
  • Cash only sales. Most legitimate businesses or organizations accept checks.
  • Unmarked vehicles or vehicles licensed out of town or use out of state phone numbers.
  • Magazines being sold to pay for trips or college using a points system.

To legally operate any type of business inside the City of Gulfport, vendors must complete an application with the Building Code Service Business License Department. During this process a background check is completed and only after the process is complete a privilege tax license is issued for the specific type of business that was applied for.

How can you protect yourself from becoming a victim of a scam?

  • Be skeptical. Ask to see the vendor’s permit.
  • Ask for a contract and never pay cash for a service.
  • Don’t deal with persons who insist it is “urgent” to get a good deal.
  • Beware of phony emails or spam disguised as legitimate businesses.
  • Beware of emails from a Nigerian or foreign government official requesting assistance in the transfer of excess funds from a foreign country into your bank account.
  • Safeguard your online transactions to help prevent identity theft or unauthorized credit card charges.

If you suspect fraud or are a victim of fraud, take action. Contact your State Attorney General’s Office at www.ago.state.ms.us if you are uncertain or suspicious of a telephone, mail or email solicitation. If you feel you have been the victim of fraud, you can access the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) at www.ic3.gov or contact the Federal Trade Commission through their web site at www.ftc.gov. Forward spam that is phishing for information to spam@uce.gov and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email. Most organizations have information on their websites about where to report problems. If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these new accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. You may catch an incident early if you order a free copy of your credit report periodically from any of the three major credit bureaus. See www.annualcreditreport.com for details on ordering a free annual credit report. You can learn other ways to avoid email scams and deal with deceptive spam at www.ftc.gov/spam.