By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)————————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to warn residents to be aware of a few scams and fraud attempts that the Sheriff’s Office has been made aware of.
“The Sheriff’s Office issued a press release earlier this week to warn our citizens of a scam involving individuals calling and stating they were deputies and demanding money to cover fines on bogus federal warrants or those individuals would be arrested,” says Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Jimmy Watt. “We were able to get the word out through our internet and social media sites and through our partners in the news media and we are thankful for their assistance to make everyone aware of what was going on.”
“However, we continue to see many of the same scams pop up, including scammers calling claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service and warning citizens that they would be arrested unless they paid up supposed back taxes that were owed,” continues P.I.O. Watt. “The Sheriff’s Office was also notified that some citizens had received a letter from a sweepstakes company claiming the recipient had won money and all they had to do was call a number and provide credit card information to the company to cover certain fees in order to claim their money. I was also notified by one of our Uniform Patrol Deputies this morning that we have had a victim of the real estate scam that has been reported in some jurisdictions. An individual received a call this morning and the caller stated that a family member had been in an accident and would be harmed if the person called did not do what they were told. The victim asked to speak to the family member but soon realized it was not a legitimate call and hung on the caller.”
As mentioned in the press release on Monday, a victim last week received a phone call from someone claiming to be a family member who needed money for bond on a bogus arrest and also for a public defender. The individual sent the money via a prepaid card and later learned that the family member was fine and was not in jail. The victim is out around $9,500.
“The Sheriff’s Office has issued multiple press releases concerning scams and potential frauds and yet we continue to see many of the same issues pop up” continues P.I.O. Watt. “In many cases, it is extremely difficult for any law enforcement agency to prosecute those who are involved and if money is lost, it is virtually impossible to retrieve. We are issuing another press release today to continue our education efforts in the hopes that no one else falls prey to these attempts to rob our citizens of their hard earned money and to hopefully deter these scammers, if possible, from trying to business in Oconee County.”
Many scams and fraud attempts have certain things in common. The Sheriff’s Office wants to emphasize these points to help protect our citizens. Many of these points come from previous press releases we have issued:
• One pretty sure sign of a scam is an individual asking for payment via a prepaid card. If anyone is able to get the PIN numbers from those cards and the money is taken before anyone realizes it is a scam, it is almost virtually impossible to retrieve the money. Also, scammers love to use legitimate businesses, such as Western Union or Money Gram, because of its quickness and availability.
• Law enforcement officers do have the right to arrest individuals with outstanding warrants but officers will not contact anyone stating that arrest warrants will be recalled if someone pays a fine over the phone, in fact, officers do not handle money transactions at all. All fines are taken care of on the judicial level in courts and are not handled by officers.
• If you receive these calls in the future, we encourage you to save all phone numbers and information if you can. Do not give out personal or financial information and do not put any money on prepaid cards. Call your local law enforcement agency to report what has happened and file a case report so an investigation can begin, regardless of the outcome and even if property was not lost.
• Most legitimate businesses will not require payment to be made using a prepaid cards. If a company or business contacts you and says that payment is due and can be made using a pre-paid card, hang up the phone and contact that company or business to inquire about the situation.
• According to an article on the website of the Federal Communications Division (http://www.fcc.gov/guides/caller-id-and-spoofing), “Spoofing” is used by criminals to falsify the number they are calling from or the name of a person in an effort to disguise the actual number they are calling from or the name of the person calling.
Scammers can make it appear that they are calling from your bank, a financial company, a governmental office or a person calling from your local area code. However, those individuals may be calling from a number that is hundreds or thousands of miles away. Due to that fact, it makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement in many cases to trace the call to find out where it originated.
• The Sheriff’s Office always recommends never giving out personal information over the telephone as companies and businesses you deal with have your personal information. If an offer sounds too good to be true, more than likely it is. If you feel uncomfortable in anyway with an offer you receive or you see some red flags, don’t respond in any way whatsoever or ignore it and don’t respond.
• Scammers tend to target seniors more than any other age groups based on financial stability and the fact seniors tend to be a more trusting generation. Anyone, however, can be the target of scams.
• Scammers will in many cases use out of country numbers, such as with the 876 area code with individuals on the line having a foreign accent. Many times it is difficult but not impossible for the Sheriff’s Office to prosecute cases and apprehend those involved in which someone calls from out of the country and not from inside Oconee County itself to perpetrate the scam.
• Never give out any personal information, such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit or debit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, or birthdates to anyone who may ask you for that information over the phone or through regular mail or e-mail.
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.
• Another scamming technique is for individuals to agree to buy something on a website, such as Craig’s List, and then receive a check in the mail. They are asked to deposit the money, keep some of it and then send the rest to another address, for example. In many cases, the checks are no good and the person who deposited the check is responsible to cover the amount of the insufficient funds.
• If the Internal Revenue Service happens to contact you concerning a tax question, they will contact you by mail instead of calling you directly. Also, if someone claims to be calling from the I.R.S. and states that you owe back taxes, hang up and call your tax preparer and/or the Internal Revenue Service to check the validity of the claims as you have the right to appeal.