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‘Debt consolidation’ among holiday scams

Madison Police Department advises the public to beware of scam artists during the holiday season. CONTRIBUTED
Madison Police Department advises the public to beware of scam artists during the holiday season. CONTRIBUTED
MADISON – Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is warning residents about holiday scams, while in Madison, police are dealing with one involving a City of Madison phone number.
Madison Police Department has learned that scammers are using a city phone number in an automated “debt consolidation” call. However, the city does not solicit payment by telephone and does not assist in any type of debt consolidation services, according to a department release.
Anyone who receives “an automated solicitation for this type of service, please keep in mind it was not generated by the City of Madison,” the release stated.
During this type of call, the message may prompt the person to “press (1)” to lower their interest rates or consolidate debt or other financial related services. Usually, these calls are scams or attempts at theft. Citizens should not consider the inquiry as reputable.
Madison Police Department’s address is 100 Hughes Road. Anyone who suspects a scam situation can call Capt. Terrell Cook in Investigations at 256-772-6252 or email terrell.cook@madisonal.gov.
On a state level, Strange said scammers often pose as a relative who is traveling and desperately needs money. “They might tell you they’ve lost their wallet or experienced some kind of emergency to deceive you. Scammers will instruct you to wire cash or provide them with a prepaid card number,” Strange said.
Fake charity scams are another concern in the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. “These scammers often use phishing emails, spoofed telephone numbers or door-to-door visits. Scammers may act as if they are working for an established charity or create a fake charity,” Strange said.
To verify a charity, visit the Internal Revenue Service’s site at irs.gov/charities-non-profits or Better Business Bureau at give.org.
“Also, Christmas gift cards can be manipulated by thieves. Scammers sometimes rub off security codes from gift cards while on store shelves and wait until they think the gift card has been sold and activated,” Strange said. The criminal then spends the money. To avoid this scam, confirm that a gift card is intact before buying it.
“The best protection against scams and crimes of opportunity is not to be caught by surprise by scammers and thieves,” Strange said. “Use your judgment and take time to verify questionable contacts.”
To report suspected consumer fraud, call 1-800-392-5658 or visit ago.alabama.gov and click “Consumer Protection.”

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