Telephone and other scams are a constant problem and the Union County Sheriff’s Office is urging the public to take precautions after a woman fell victim to one recently.
In a statement released Wednesday, Sheriff David Taylor said his office deals with different types of scams on a weekly basis and that he intends to keep the public informed of these as they occur. Since the beginning of the year, Taylor said his office has had 52 reports of scam artists defrauding or trying to defraud Union County residents. While the investigations originate with his office, Taylor said they are usually referred to the FBI or the Secret Service because many of the scam artists who operate via the phone or email are based outside the United States. He said this makes it difficult to apprehend and prosecute the scam artists, making it imperative that the public be aware of scams and what to do to avoid falling victim to them.
Taylor said the majority of scams are over the phone or via email, with the most common being a prize, either in the form of a gift or a lottery, that the scam artist claims the victim has won. He said usually these scams are in the form of lotteries in foreign countries or the scam artist is posing as a representative of a legitimate firm. One recent case, however, was a little closer to home.
“I got this one today, a man said he received a text message on his cell phone saying that ‘On behalf of the Union County Sheriff’s Office, you have been issued a thousand dollar Visa gift card,’” Taylor said. “It said ‘Please use the following website to claim your card and have it shipped to the address of your choosing.’ We don’t give out Visa gift cards, we don’t even give out ‘Get out of jail free’ cards.”
In this case, Taylor said the victim did not take the bait, but instead reported it to his office. In another case, however, the victim did take the bait and then had to act fast to avoid being victimized further.
Taylor said that earlier this week a woman told deputies that she believed she’d been the victim of a scam artist. The woman said she’d received a telephone call and the caller identified herself as a representative of “Life Alert.” The victim said the caller — who somehow knew she is on disability — offered her a deal on the lifesaving equipment provided by the company. She said she gave the caller her debit card number.
After giving her debit card number, the victim said the caller told her shat she would have to run the number and put her on hold. The victim said that for the next hour she was placed on and off on hold before she finally hung up. She said she then contacted her bank and was able to stop any charges to her account.
Taylor said the real “Life Alert” organization does not use telephone solicitations.
While the woman targeted by this scam was able to prevent the scam artists from using her debit card information, not all victims are so fortunate. Taylor urged the public to take steps to prevent themselves from falling victim to a scam, starting with not giving out any personal information over the telephone.
“To avoid things like this, tell the caller to mail you the information on their company if you think the offer is something you would be interested in,” Taylor said. “Also, if you receive a phone call and are skeptical of the caller or information they are asking you for, simply hang up the phone and call the sheriff’s office.”
Taylor said that as new scams are brought to his office’s attention, the information will be made known to the public to help prevent others from falling victim.
For more information call the Union County Sheriff’s Office at 429-1612.