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Our View: Don't become the next scam victim

Maybe it's a sign of tough economic times, but it seems like reports of various scams are on the increase. We trusting citizens should again be reminded that there are many people in this world who use deceptive methods to try and separate us from our money.

Just last week Sheriff Dennis Hillstead warned people about a scam involving bogus lottery winnings.

There are many variations, but the basic premise involves receiving a legitimate looking letter from a company or organization that announces a person has won a lottery. The notification includes a check for between $4,000 and $5,000 and instructs the person to deposit the check, then send back $3,000 to cover taxes and costs. The company promises to send the remaining lottery winnings when it receives the money.

The check appears legitimate and phone calls to a number given are answered, and appropriate information is supplied. If the victim checks the company on the Internet, it appears on the up and up.

Another potential scam involves telemarketing.

A Chippewa Falls man, Duane J. Kolve, was recently sentenced to 16 months in jail for his involvement in a telemarketing racketeering case. According to court documents, Kolve and others, operating through various businesses, used deceptive telephone solicitations to swindle unsuspecting victims in the multimillion-dollar scam.

There are plenty of legitimate telephone solicitors, but unfortunately some people are nothing more than fast-talking criminals purportedly raising money to benefit police, firefighters, veterans or some other worthy group. In some of these unfortunate cases, the vast majority of the money is not used for charitable purposes.

More obvious scams are in the mountain of e-mails many of us receive. They usually involve the winning of a lottery in the United Kingdom, or some poor person willing to give us millions to get money out of Nigeria, United Kingdom, etc.

The lesson, of course, is "winner beware" when it comes to letters and e-mails that make wonderful offers. As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true -- it probably is.

When it comes to solicitation of your money from telemarketers, make sure the cause is legitimate. If you are unsure, ask the caller to send information about the organization, including phone numbers to check on what percentage of donations actually get to the people the group claims to be helping.

Guard your hard-earned money and don't become a victim of one of these scams. When it comes to money, a little skepticism is appropriate.