Scams come in many shapes, sizes

In the last week, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department issued a warning about a possible same taking place in the area.

Residents are reporting being called by people, claiming they are representatives of the Microsoft company, requesting access to their home computers.

Through the “spoofing” or faking a local number, they work to convince residents to pay them for services to fix their computer remotely, thus stealing money while most likely also creating additional problems on the computers, stealing information and more.

This is nothing new, but when reports do begin to circulate of such a scam, it is always a good thing to warn residents just in case.

Scams have been going on for hundreds of years. They change over time, and, with digital technology becoming much more prevalent in our lives, it is becoming easier to commit if people aren’t careful.

Anyone can be a target, and the methods can vary.

We’ve heard of times where people have received phone calls from individuals claiming to be family members in need, and asking for money to be sent to them.

We’ve heard of people showing up at homes claiming to work for a company in an attempt to gain access to the house and steal property.

There have been those who claim to be raising money to benefit a particular cause – whether it be a national organization, a local youth group or even just a family in need – only for people to find out the person was pocketing the money for themselves.

In fact, on more than one occasion last year, I’ve read of instances where people were claiming to raise money to assist with their own medical bills because of cancer treatment, or some other condition, only to find out they were never truly sick.

Is it any wonder, really, why people are so jaded these days?

Unfortunately, it would appear that in today’s world, sometimes it doesn’t pay to show a little faith in our fellow man.

Even newspapers can be the target of scams.

We encourage our residents to express their opinions in our letters to the editor section, appearing each Sunday in this newspaper.

Recently, we have been receiving letters through our Virtual Newsroom page, identified with an address supposedly located on a street in Weirton.

The letters usually have to do with vegetarianism and fighting animal cruelty. Those causes are fine, and if anyone wants to express their thoughts on them, they are more than welcome.

However, I also noticed the phone number listed with the submission wasn’t local. I know this sometimes happens. People might move to the area and decide to keep their cell number and not get a local line.

Curious, though, I did a web search for the phone number and found it identified as a land line in Chicago. Then, I found an article, published by a newspaper in another state, where it said the same phone number had been used in a fake letter sent to them. The letter they received, and published, included the name and address of a resident of their town. After following their verification procedures, it was printed. The problem was, the resident never wrote the letter.

This happens all the time, and, even though newspapers do their best to verify letters are actually written by the person listed, sometimes they do slip by.

The bottom line is, unfortunately, we all have to be increasingly careful in whatever we do these days.

There are going to be people out there looking to make some easy money, not caring for the effects of their actions and what it means for their victims.

Sometimes we don’t always think about some of the dangers out there in today’s world, but, unfortunately, they are there and we have to be extra cautious of what we put out there about ourselves, where we store our records and even how we make our purchases.

We never know how or when a scam artist will strike, and, most often, by the time we do find out, it already is too late.

Fortunately, there are some precautions we all can take to reduce the possibility of being scammed, and law enforcement is becoming more capable to tracking the scammers down.

Don’t share personal information, keep an eye out for anything strange, and, if you do think you might be a victim, contact your local law enforcement agency.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)