West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is advising the state's residents on how they can avoid being a victim of fraud as 2014 begins.
Morrisey's office is investigating a scam in which senior citizens are receiving calls offering them a free Life Alert system if they provide a credit card number to cover the device's shipping, handling and activation fees.
"An immediate red flag should go up as soon as someone says they will give you something for free - but then want to tack on extra fees," Morrisey said. "Citizens should be weary of any deal that sounds too good to be true and should exercise caution when dealing with cold calls seeking personal information out of the blue."
He added consumers should always be skeptical of telephone sales people "who are too aggressive" or who directly or indirectly threaten them into purchasing what they are selling. They should also avoid offers when the price or service quoted is only good for a select amount of time, or if the caller avoids answering questions directly and will not provide the details in writing about the offer.
Morrisey advises consumers to take the time to independently verify that information first before making a purchase.
"As with many scams, consumers should avoid cold calls that use high pressure sales tactics to get personal information," Morrisey said. "If the consumer does want a medical life alert system, they can contact that company directly themselves and get the device on their own terms rather than through a cold call."
A second case being investigated by Morrisey's office involving attempts at credit card fraud comes following news last month that as many as 40 million Target credit and debit card accounts may have been breached. Morrisey said scammers are contacting residents in the state, telling them they are with Target, and asking for their credit card information.
"Scammers often use uncertainty and confusion as a time to prey on vulnerable consumers," Morrisey said. "Consumers may receive calls, texts, or e-mails from someone claiming to be from Target asking for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and other personal information. These scams attempt to offer 'protection' but instead try to steal personal information from consumers. Do not give this information."
Consumers also may receive an e-mail asking them to click on a link that takes them to a fake website.
If Target contacts a person regarding the credit card security breach matter, they will not ask for personal information, according to Morrisey. He suggests the consumer contact Target to confirm if the communication they have received by phone or e-mail is legitimate before providing personal information.
Morrisey said those believing they have been a victim of identity theft, or that their credit cards have been breached, should call local law enforcement, as well as the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 and the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338. They may also go online to report their concerns at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.