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Take the time to avoid being swindled [Editorial]

Among the most ancient of human enterprises is the swindle. Perpetrators of organized cheats are mentioned in the Bible and in morality tales throughout history.

Far from being part of the past, however, scams are as much a part of modern society as they have ever been. The deceivers, however, don't rely on the old methods. As evidenced by recent criminal enterprises involving national retail operations, they have found ways to make use of the latest technologies to funnel other people's money their way.

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Similarly slippery people have also been working scams on a more local level, as evidenced by a recent warning issued by the Harford County Sheriff's Office. Like many swindles, this one involves frightening the target victims. They are told they need to pay a fine to avoid going to jail. Also like many swindles, the payment method is not what would be expected when dealing with a government agency: the victim is asked to pay via pre-paid debit or credit card.

The swindler generally demands quick action, and, indeed, quick action is what is called for. Rather than quickly paying the bogus fine or fee, however, when confronted by an unexpected and sudden demand for money, the best course of action is to call police. This applies whether the scheme in question is the one being warned of by the sheriff's office, or any of the others that have come to light in recent months involving people purporting to be associated with utilities.

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When someone unexpectedly demands payment in short order, slowing the process by checking with lawful authorities will help sort things out. In the unlikely event that such a request for payment is legitimate, there's no harm in checking. In the more likely scenario involving a scam, becoming a victim will be avoided.

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