Family member, ‘big prize’ most prevalent scams

Telephone scams involving people pretending to be family members requesting money and Publishers Clearing House representatives asking for payment to claim the “big prize” are the two most prevalent phone scams on Maui at the moment, the Maui Police Department said.

“Each year millions of dollars are lost to telephone scams,” according to a Police Department news release. “Don’t become a victim, protect your personal information, know who you are talking to and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Police officials suggest:

* Never providing bank account, personal identification and Social Security numbers.

* If a caller asks to verify information about a credit card, hang up and call the bank directly using a valid phone number from the phone book or bank’s website.

* Don’t pay money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings; legitimate operations do not require payment for winnings.

* Never wire money to unfamiliar parties.

* Check unfamiliar area codes before returning calls and be aware that many three-digit area codes connect callers to international phone numbers.

* When receiving an emergency medical call regarding a loved one in an accident and saying money needs to be provided for medical treatment, verify the information and location of the accident. Notify the police and request information. Typically in an accident, emergency medical treatment is not contingent on immediate payment.

With the increase of information on the Internet, scammers can obtain personal information from family blogs, genealogy and social networking sites and may be very convincing or pushy, police warned.