By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)—————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is warning its citizens to be aware of potential scams that prey in many cases on the most trusting of victims and can cost you hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars.
Even though scams can target any segment of the population of the county, many scams target senior citizens, due to the fact that seniors often have better financial resources and because of differences between generations.
“Seniors are more of a trusting generation,” according to Sgt. Justin Ward of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Sheriff’s Office, who often investigates cases of scams and frauds. “They are more likely to believe what people are telling them whereas perhaps younger people are more skeptical because of the culture they grew up in.”
Many of the scams have their own unique names and characteristics, but there are some similarities with the scams and there are some scams that investigators see more than others, such as calls from out of the country using an 876 area code, for example, with individuals on the line having an accent. Also, fake loan companies roam the internet, under the derivative of being legitimate company, even naming themselves with a name that is similar to a legitimate company.
“With many of the scams, they always want some type of money up front,” says Investigator Ward. “Once they get you to give a little bit of money, they will continue whatever they have come up with to keep getting you to give them money. A lot of them want Western Union or Money Grams because they can pick those up pretty quick and they are all over the place.”
“A lot of them like the pre-paid money cards” continues Investigator Ward. “They will tell you to put $300 on this Green Dot Card to cover this and then once they have those numbers on the Green Dot Card, they take the money out and it is gone. The scammers always come up with some kind of story that gets you hooked and then the story is going to change.”
With the calls that come from out of the country, many times those individuals are out of reach of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and being out of the country, even though charges could be filed, it is still difficult to apprehend those perpetrators.
There are some steps that individuals can take to protect themselves, according to Investigator Ward:
1) Be wary of the 876 area code.
2) Be wary of any business that wants you to e-mail them personal information, such as to obtain loans. Most businesses will have forms that a person can fill out online.
3) Be wary of anyone who asks for Green Dot Card or any type of prepaid card to pay for fees. A legitimate business is going to have a way to obtain money without going through a middle man.
4) Institutions should not ask for your personal information, such as social security numbers and routing and transit numbers, because your personal bank, for example, should have that information. If an individual calls from a bank, for example, and says they need to verify your social security number, you should ask for their name and operating number and then call the bank yourself to see if it is legitimate. The bigger banks will normally recognize the number that you call from and they will then ask you to verify who you are by the last four digits of your social security number or your mailing address or zip code.
5) As always, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Besides the scams, fraud is another problem that affects many of the citizens of Oconee County, with the individuals committing the fraud being those who know the victims well or those they don’t. Investigator Ward says the fraud cases where the victim knows the person committing the fraud is the easiest to solve, because they may know the victim as well as the victim knows them, with many of them being family members. Credit and debit card fraud ranks high, with many individuals using the cards in some cases and then putting them back.
“It is hard to know when those credit and debit card numbers are compromised,” continues Investigators Ward. “People use cards so many places and the statistics say it is going to be used within a week of being compromised. Sometimes you can track it down and sometimes you can’t. The fraud with people you know is going to be fairly local, while the fraud with the ones you don’t normally is done far away.”
In regards to counterfeit bills, that issue comes and goes in streaks, according to Investigators Ward. Most of the issues with counterfeit bills come from individuals who have or purchase ink jet printers and who scan or print. Some counterfeit bills can be high quality bills, according to Ward, which normally comes from other parts of the country and some other parts of the world and makes it way to Oconee County.
As part of its efforts, the Sheriff’s Office will be uploading video’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus concerning scams and frauds from the National Crime Prevention Council during the next few weeks to warn citizens on what to look for and how to prevent being the victim of scams and frauds.