Our Opinion: Don't be fooled: Scams come in new guises

Consider how much more inventive and productive our society would be if the people who create and carry out scams turned their talents to honest endeavors.

Recent news items have focused on new and resurgent methods of deceit designed to steal your money, personal information and identity. And modern technology — e-mail, Facebook, other Internet sites — frequently provides a cloak of anonymity for con artists.

Among warnings and advisories:

• Impostors on Facebook are pretending to be wounded soldiers who profess love and affection to dupe women into sending them money.

• Tax season has spawned renewal of scams from people pretending to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS reminds taxpayers it never initiates e-mail and encourages taxpayers to report suspicious e-mails or websites to phishing@irs.com.

• The state attorney general’s office released its list of the top 10 consumer complaints. Scams involving credit cards, telephone cramming charges, pre-need burial plans and lotteries and sweepstakes were among the complaints listed. Complaints may be registered on the attorney general hotline, 800-392-8222, or online at ago.mo.gov.

• Home improvement scams — also among the top 10 complaints — deserve particular attention as spring approaches. These scams frequently involve people going door to door offering to resurface asphalt driveways or repair roofs. Unlicensed contractors often seek payment in advance and disappear after performing incomplete or substandard work.

How do you avoid becoming a victim?

Whenever possible, deal with vendors and providers you know, those recommended by family members or friends or those with established reputations in the community.

The proliferation of scams, sadly, requires replacing trust with healthy suspicion. Before making any commitment, insist on credentials, references and documentation of any transaction or agreement.

And remember the time-honored adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Update

Tennessee now leads the nation in meth lab seizures, with 2,082 incidents in 2010, according to a report Tuesday.

A Monday editorial referenced Missouri as nationwide leader, based on statistics prior to the update.

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