Ginny Otte

Weeknights 12am - 5:30am

WITTENBERGE, GERMANY - JUNE 14: A telephone operator at the employment agency Adecco uses headphones at a call centre on June 14, 2007 in Wittenberge, Germany. Call centres, a growing industry in eastern Germany, offer companies a 24 hour call centre solution service. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

I read an article about a current scam in New Jersey coming from the “Montclair County Court” claiming to be a jury duty notice, with ways to obtain your personal information.  A New Jersey resident should know that Montclair is a town and not a county, but what if you misunderstood and think they are referring to the county that Montclair is in?  A lot of people, when they think that a court is contacting them, will respond thinking it is the correct thing to do, even if it is to fix a mistake.  However, answering this call or email would be setting yourself up for disaster.

These days, one must be vigilant and know that caller ID can be faked as easily as an email address, and that most government organizations will not call or email you.  On the rare occasion I answer a phone call and I know that it is a scam, I shut them down–once I was called by someone claiming to be the IRS, and that I would go to jail for unpaid taxes.  I knew everything that this person said was incorrect.  I asked them for the mailing address of the office so that I could forward the address to my attorney, and the person who called me cursed me and hung up the phone!

The Federal Trade Commission has a great guide to help you avoid falling prey to scams.  Remember that scammers target older people (I know someone who got a call from his “grandson” who claimed to have been arrested and needed bail money, but my friend never had any children, and has no grandchildren, so that was an easy-to-spot scam), and other vulnerable people.  They will also claim that you won a prize, even if you never entered a contest.  Be wary of all of it, and never be afraid to hang up or delete the text or email.

And remember, the government will never contact you and ask you to buy gift cards!  Be vigilant at all times.