The offer sounds too good to be true.
That's what Bob Dooner, a 78-year-old Dataw Island resident, thought when he got a call this month from a woman claiming to work for a Georgia-based clearinghouse offering a chance to win $10,000 cash and $3,000 in gift certificates.
The woman informed him he was one of a lucky few in South Carolina in the running to win both prizes, but there was a catch -- Dooner needed to mail the company a check for $129.
"It sounded too good to be true," Dooner said. "If they want $129, why don't they just take it out of whatever money I win? But she went on and on and made it all sound so wonderful."
Instead of mailing the check, Dooner phoned the Better Business Bureau, which cross-referenced the phone number and address provided by the caller. The consumer advocacy group confirmed Dooner's suspicions -- he had nearly been the victim of a scam.
He's not alone, according to Sgt. Robin McIntosh, spokeswoman for the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.
"There are so many phone and e-mail scams these days," McIntosh said. "We get regular calls about scams similar to this. We've put out (news) releases on this topic and other common scams in the past, but these things evolve so quickly that it's impossible to warn the public of all the potential scams."
McIntosh did not know whether the same company that contacted Dooner had scammed other local residents but said protecting against fraudulent schemes is as simple as exercising "good, old-fashioned common sense."
"If you have to send money to get money, it's probably a scam," McIntosh said. "If you won a sweepstakes you never entered, it's probably a scam. Never provide personal or financial information solicited by phone or e-mail and, if in doubt about an offer or request you have received, check it out. The Internet is a valuable tool for staying educated on the latest scams."