Be wary of any uninvited money-related solicitations that come to you via phone, email, postal service or personal contact.
Speaking to a gathering of 26 mostly senior listeners in the basement of the Pea?body Township Library, Schmidt described scams and schemes that annually drain millions of dollars, even from common-sense Kansans.
?I?m going to share with you some of the things we?re seeing, and if you?re like me and an awful lot of folks I share this information with, you are going to sit there and politely smile and nod and be thinking that nobody really falls for that stuff?that nobody is really gullible enough to really do that.
?And I?m telling you, they are. The reason these guys keep doing the same old (scams) is because it works, because they?re making money at it.?
Schmidt said his office handles some 4,000 consumer fraud cases a year, and he speaks to community gatherings across Kansas because it is written into his job description.
?The reason we?re doing this is because it?s what I?m supposed to be doing?giving information to the folks,? he said. ?Being forewarned is being fore-armed.
?We?re in a position to see, not just locally but statewide, what?s hot at the moment among the crooks and the con artists.?
The ?Top 5? scams
Schmidt addressed the five most frequent scams his office addressed during 2015.
? IRS and other government impersonations.
Schmidt said the usual come-on is: ?You didn?t get your taxes paid on time, and you?re going to run up penalties; if you give me your credit card number, I?ll make sure your taxes get paid right away.?
Schmidt said, ?Here?s the bottom line: The IRS is never going to call you?ever. They might send you a letter that says you?ve got a problem, and they might talk to you on the phone and give you a number to call.
?But if the phone rings, and it?s a cold call and it?s somebody on the end who says it?s the IRS?it?s not. It?s that simple.?
Schmidt added that if you wonder if you have an IRS problem, call the office number in the phone book or go online to IRS.gov.
?By the way, it?s OK to just hang up on a telemarketer,? he advised. ?You don?t have to be polite.?
Other impersonators may call about fines for missing jury duty, then ask for banking information or a credit card number.
If you concerned, ?Call the court and find out what?s going on,? he said.
? Variations on ?You are a winner!?
In this scenario, the scammer ?informs? you of a prize, but then asks you to pay shipping and handling, or a local tax, before they can release the prize to you.
?You never have to pay in order to get a prize that you?ve won,? Schmidt said. ?If you have to pay for it, it is not a prize you have won?by definition.
?By the way,? he added, ?you didn?t win if you didn?t enter. If you don?t remember entering, then you know you didn?t win it.?
As for calls about winning a foreign lottery, ?Even if there was a foreign lottery, it would be a crime for you to play it because the only lottery you can legally play in Kansas is the Kansas Lottery,? Schmidt said.
? Calls about credit card services.
The con artist caller may offer to ?lower your interest rate? if you press a number. If you press the prompt to speak to someone, they will ask you for personal information. Their goal is to get your credit card number.
?Your card company will never, ever ask you for your credit card number,? Schmidt said. ?If it really is your credit card company, they know your number?it?s on the screen in front of them.
?If you ever get a call or an email that purports to be from your credit card company, just hang up on them,? he added. ?Then take your credit card out, turn it over and there?s a customer-service 800 number on the back. Dial that number (if you have concerns about your account.)?
? Computer security warnings.
The con artist will claim to represent a well-known computer company that has ?detected a virus on your computer and we will need to access it remotely to wipe off the virus.?
?Computer companies are not going to call you and tell you have a virus on your computer?it?s not real,? Schmidt said. ?What these folks are trying to do is get information so they can access your computer?not for the purpose of getting rid of a virus, but probably for the purpose of putting a virus or malware on your computer.?
? Utility bill scams.
In this scenario, the scammer impersonates a utility provider to let you know you are in danger of having your electricity (or water, natural gas, etc.) cut off unless you make an immediate bill payment over the phone.
Schmidt said one thing that is different about this scam is that rather than preying predominantly on individuals, it most often targets small-business owners.
Schmidt the business owners tend to be quick to pay the ?charges? because they can?t risk losing sales revenue because of a utility shut-off.
A bonus scam
Schmidt also addressed ??the grandparent scam,? which was among the top five scams in the state until the past year.
In this scam, a ?grandchild? calls to ask a grandparent to wire money to solve an emergency problem that has arisen far from home.
Prior to making the call, Schmidt said con artists often hack into Facebook and other social media accounts to find a telltale term of endearment for the grandparent, or details from a holiday gathering to make the call convincing.
?I recommend that you just hang up?but if you can?t, I get it,? he said. ?Then tell (the caller) you absolutely have to get the police to help (the grandchild) because you?re not able to solve the problem on your own.
?Get a number or address to reach them, physically. That almost always causes them to hang up on you.?
Schmidt encouraged his listeners to call local law enforcement if any solicitor asks for a personal meeting to exchange funds or goods.
?If you ever feel uneasy, nervous or threatened, call local law enforcement right away,? he said. ?I?m worried about you losing money, but the bigger issue?and it?s a vary rare case, but it does happen?is your physical safety.?
Asked when it?s appropriate to call Schmidt?s office, the attorney general said, ?Selfishly, I?d like to know every time. But anytime you think its clearly a scam and you have concrete information?or absolutely any time you lost money?we want to know about it.
?You can file a complaint with us, or with local law enforcement. We do talk to each other.?
As a resource, Schmidt recommended the website called InYourCornerKan?sas.org.