By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)————————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office continues to warn citizens of scams that could potentially cost our citizens their money and perhaps their personal information.
“The job of a scammer is to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to figure out a way to take your hard earned money from you,” says Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Jimmy Watt. “We have issued numerous press releases in the last three and a half years warning our citizens of various kinds of scams and I have met twice in the last several months with our media partners to help educate our citizens on what to look for. Scammers never take a break and therefore, we cannot let down our guard either.”
The Sheriff’s Office continues to hear about various kinds of scams, including threats of arrest by scammers calling claiming to be agents of the Internal Revenue Service to scammers calling business owners claiming to be representing Duke Energy and saying that their utility service will be cut off due to an overdue power bill to individuals stopping by and speaking with local residence, saying they are a security company working with the Sheriff’s Office and trying to sell free security systems with the only requirement being a monthly fee.
Also, PIO Watt was notified by a citizen of a scam recently in which a citizen received a letter in the mail claiming that the citizen had won $1.56 million dollars and all that was required for the citizen to claim their money was to return a documentation acceptance form verifying their name and address and to enclose $20 either in cash, a check or a money order.
“In regards to individuals saying that we at the Sheriff’s Office are working with their security company to provide free security systems, the Sheriff’s Office does not endorse nor work with any private security businesses in this way,” according to P.I.O. Watt. “We do not make any recommendations in regards to an inquiry from individuals regarding services that a private business provides. The decision to purchase a home or security system is left up to the home or business owner. Once again, as we have said, if an offer sounds too good to be true, more often than not it is.”
The Sheriff’s Office is recommending that if citizens receive a call from someone who is trying to scam them to “Just Hang Up” and do not provide any financial or personal information. If an individual calls from an organization or a business and says that you owe money and you think it is a scam, then simply hang up and contact that business or organization to verify that they have tried to contact you regarding a past due bill or money owed.
“Many of the scams that affect our citizens originate from outside Oconee County,” continues PIO Watt. “With that said, if the scam does not originate from inside Oconee County, then prosecution by the Sheriff’s Office is virtually impossible. Also, if a scam occurs outside of the United States, then prosecution by the Federal Government is virtually impossible. The best way to put scammers out of business is not to be a victim and to educate yourself on what scammers do and how they do it.”
As the Sheriff’s Office has done in previous press releases, we would like to offer these tips to help you not become a victim of a scam. These tips include some new ones at the very beginning that the Sheriff’s Office has not shared before:
• Individuals who would like to report IRS scams are asked to go online to the website of the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration at www.tigta.gov and look for the yellow box at the top of the page. That box contains information on I.R.S. scams, including a link that will allow you to fill out a report if you have received an I.R.S. scam calls. If you owe back taxes, the IRS will send you a notice by mail but never call you directly. You can also contact the Internal Revenue Service directly to check the validity of the claims as you have a right to appeal.
• Also, citizens can Google a phone number they receive to see if that phone number has been associated with fraudulent activity. Scammers use a technique called Caller I.D. spoofing to make it appear that they are calling from a legitimate number. It is normally a good idea never to call the number back that the scammer gives you or the phone number that appears on your caller id. By calling back or providing other information, such as your address, could potentially open you up to be scammed more.
• Scammers will often become angry if you question their actions and will often times play on your emotions and fears. Do not allow them to do this. Take a deep breath and calm down and understand what is going on.
• Legitimate businesses will never ask or demand that payment be made with a prepaid card. This is a sure sign of a scam. Once the PIN number of a prepaid card is given, the scammers can access the funds on that card and it is virtually impossible to recover those funds.
• In regards to disconnection of utilities for a home or business, those customers will receive a notification in advance that their utilities are being disconnected, sometimes in one’s power bills. There will never be a notification that one’s utilities will be disconnected within an hour’s time, for example.
• In regards to various law enforcement scams that the Sheriff’s Office has heard about, law enforcement officers do have the right to arrest individuals with outstanding warrants. However, law enforcement officers will not contact anyone saying that arrest warrants will be recalled if someone pays a fine over the phone. There is also a scam that has occurred in which citizens are called by individuals claiming to be law enforcement saying that the citizens have missed court and need to pay a fine over the phone or risk being arrested. All fines for warrants or traffic tickets or court fines will not be handled by a law enforcement officer but will be handled by the court.
• Never provide any personal or financial information to individuals either personally or claiming to be calling from a business or organization. This includes dates of birth or social security numbers or account numbers, for example. Businesses and organizations that you deal with have all of that information already.
• As always, if an offer sounds too good to be true, more often than not, it is and if you feel uncomfortable in anyway with an offer you receive or you see some red flags, don’t respond in any way whatsoever, ignore it, don’t respond and “Just Hang Up.”