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Princeton chief issues scam alert

PRINCETON — ‘Tis the season for holiday giving, but unfortunately it’s always the season for scams.

Harold Bloch of Princeton said he may be 94 years old, but he’s not stupid. When he received a “check” in November for $4,685 from the United Global Logistics Inc. saying he was a second-prize winner in the USA Mega sweepstakes, he knew it was a scam. Before he could receive his $255,000 prize, Bloch would first have to send the company a check for $3,850.

Bloch didn’t fall for the scam. Instead, he went to the Bureau County State’s Attorney’s office and then to his bank, where the scam was confirmed. Bloch’s advice to others? Don’t do anything without checking it out first.

On Wednesday, Princeton Police Chief Tom Root said there have been numerous scams recently in the Princeton area, and people need to be alert and smart when contacted by mail, phone or in person.

Scams can take on various appearances, Root said.

One recent scam involving Princeton residents involved a phone call claiming to be the Publishers Clearing House, stating the individual had won money. The company asked the individual to deposit money in his/her account and then mail money to the company. This is a scam, Root said.

Checks received in the mail saying you have won some sort of contest but an administrative fee must be paid first — this is another scam, Root said. Those checks may look real, but they are actually counterfeit. Do not try to deposit them in your account thinking you have this money to spend, or you will be overdrawn.

Another common scam is someone claiming to be a relative who is in trouble or needing money to get out of jail, usually in Mexico, Again, this is another scam and you should not send any money.

In the area of home repairs, the scammer will often ask for money up front, but don’t do it, Root said. The scammer will typically give a bid way below any other estimates received, but the work is usually below standard or even not completed.

“Please be smart,” Root said. “Call the police immediately before doing something that you may be sorry for later on.”

In order to protect themselves, area residents should ask questions and get phone numbers for return calls, Root said. Usually, the scammer will not give any contact numbers, or if they do, those numbers are disconnected or not in service. People can also check with their local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau to help verify the validity of a company.

The purpose behind these warnings is simple, Root said.

“Our goal is to try to save you from making a huge and costly mistake,” Root said. “If you thinking something is too good to be true ... it probably is.”

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