The scams — each via telephone — are being investigated by the Union County Sheriff’s Office which is warning businesses and residents to be on their guard.
Lt. Al Black said the first scam, directed at a local garage, began last week when the owner received what became the first of 12 phone calls from a man wanting him to wire money to a location in Texas via Western Union. Black said the caller, who said he was calling from Florence, wanted the garage owner to wire the money in order to arrange for a truck to be transferred to Union and worked on at the garage. The caller wanted the garage owner to accept payment via what he said was his Bank of America card.
Black said the garage owner thought the request was strange and refused the request. Instead, he contacted the sheriff’s office and turned over the number of the Bank of America card. His suspicions were well-founded as the card turned out to be stolen. Bank of America was informed of this and Black said it was the first inkling the company had the card was compromised.
“A person can lose their card number without having the card physically removed from them,” Black said. “It’s like when you go into a restaurant and somebody makes a carbon of your credit card or simply writes down the number.”
Had the garage owner gone along with the caller’s request, Black said he would have lost any money wired to the Texas location.
“Once you wire the money via Western Union or any other service it’s gone,” Black said. “Western Union can’t get your money back, the credit card companies can’t refund it. That’s why the scammers are working scams like these — they know that once the money is wired its cash, it’s gone.”
Black said when he contacted the garage owner, the scam artist used a translator service designed to assist the hearing impaired. He said scam artists do this in order to make it more difficult to track them down. Once they’ve made contact by phone, they want their victims to deal with them online to make it even more difficult to trace them.
The City of Union Public Safety Department is also investigating similar scams but Black said he could not comment on them as they are being handled by another agency and the investigation is continuing.
Another attempted scam being investigated by the sheriff’s office targeted an 86-year-old woman who received a call Monday telling her she’d won $2 million which she would receive as soon as she paid a $500 transfer fee. Black said the scam failed when the woman’s daughter realized what was happening and contacted the sheriff’s office.
The caller claimed to be from Las Vegas but Black said the area code he gave was actually for Jamaica. Black said there was a previous scam originating from Jamaica that targeted a local person. The scam artist presented himself as a Bank of America executive and even provided a 1-800 number that took the victim to what was presented as Bank of America voicemail.
While it presented itself as Bank of America, Black said the voicemail offered none of the services such as Spanish-language communication that a real Bank of America site would.
Black called the number and the only option was “press one” which took the caller to a supposed service representative. That was how the caller would find themselves speaking to a Jamaican cellphone.
In May, the sheriff’s office encountered another scam that originated out of Jamaica. Black said when investigators called the number and identified themselves as police officers they were threatened by the person on the other end with bodily harm.
Black said as the scam originates overseas, the sheriff’s office has no jurisdition to pursue the perpetrators. He said the best the office can do is warn the public against falling for such scams.
“If it looks too good to be true, it isn’t something you need to be involved in,” he said. “If things don’t look right you need to contact authorities so you can protect yourself as well as others.”
• Anyone who thinks they may have been the target of a scam should contact the Union County Sheriff’s Office at 429-1613 or the Union Public Safety Department at 429-1713.