The Times Journal & Russell County News
Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014 — RUSSELL SPRINGS & JAMESTOWN, KENTUCKY —
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Scams targeting local folks
In July 16 Issue
By John Thompson
News-Register Reporter

Russell County Sheriff Larry Bennett is asking everyone to be vigilant against scams.

In recent weeks the Sheriff's Office has received a few complaints of a "lottery" scam, in which a phone call is made to the prospective victim informing them that they have won a lottery amount which the scammers promise to bring the victim, but first a "confirmation deposit" must be made to an account provided by the scammers.

One particular "winning lottery" was for $9,000 if the victim deposited $750 to a bank account. When the potential victim said she needed to talk with her daughter about it first, the scam artists attempted to talk her into not disclosing the winning to the daughter, so that they could surprise everyone in a "Publisher's Clearinghouse" style surprise.

A similar scam was made from an overseas phone. When a Sheriff's Deputy called the number and informed the party on the other line that an investigation was taking place, he was cursed and hung up on.

Scams have always been a part of life; but when economic times are difficult, scams often become more prevalent.

Technological advances may also leave segments of the population, often the elderly, confused about what is or is not a scam. Insuring that elderly friends and family members are always vigilant is a good idea.

Here are a number of scams and shady practices that are currently being practiced:

Banking scams - the scam artist will call claiming that they are employed by your bank. The scammers will then request your bank account number so that they can confirm you are the correct person that they should be speaking with. Remember - NEVER tell your bank account number when solicited like this. If you think the call may be legitimate, hang up and call your bank yourself using a number you already have or obtain from the phone book. Do not use a number provided by the caller.

Banking scams are also prevalent on the internet, as are other popular services that a person may use. These scams are known as "phishing" as the perpetrators are casting a wide net, sending "spam" emails out to millions of potential victims, hoping that even a few will fall for it. Most people who have had an email address established over a length of time eventually get these, sometimes on a daily basis.

The just of these scams is that they appear to be from your banking institution, some other major banking institution, a popular internet service that you may utilize such as financial services such as Paypay, or retail operations such as Amazon. The email looks official and provides a "link" for you to click on, which then takes you to a fake web page that looks very official. You are then asked to verify personal information.

Amazingly people are still taken in by this "phishing" technique; though all reputable services that do hold your personal information constantly warn their customers that they would never ask for personal information or banking verification via email.

If you question whether there might be a problem with an account, you should not click on the provided link, but instead go to the website in question using what you know to be there web address. Once you have done that and have signed in, if there is a problem with your account the company will be sure to let you know then.

Inspector scams - persons claiming to be "officials" such as a "city inspector" arrives at a home stating they need to check the plumbing, furnace, wiring, etc., and then finding a problem calls someone to do the "repairs." The work is overcharged and done poorly, if at all.

This happened recently in Russell County as a lady paid $900 up front for tree trimming work to be done. Very little work was done and now she is unable to get in contact with those who provided the poor service.

"Never pay until they do the work," said Bennett, "and then if the work isn't satisfactory, don't pay it until they've satisfactorily done the job."

Another aspect to these "services" scams is that once a deal for services has been negotiated, the scammer will say they need money up front in order to purchase the materials to do the job. Once they receive this money they then will not return to do the work.

Telemarketing is another venue for scamming that needs to be looked out for, especially among the elderly, as on the phone the con can be very convincing purely through being very congenial, taking advantage of people's own honesty and politeness.

One method of telemarketing scam is to, on one day gather as much personal information as possible, then calling in the following days to use that information by feeding it back to the person. This works well on elderly persons with memory loss problems, who may share information, such as a bill paid and then forget the conversation, only to receive a phone call saying they have not sent money for a bill, wherein the scammer will provide an address to send the check to.

Another method that has happened locally within the past year and is a popular and disturbing trend is to take advantage, again especially with the elderly, of the persons desire to help a family member. A call will be made informing the victim that a family member is in jail or other dire need and needs money immediately. The victim is then told how to send the money, usually through money order.

Senior citizens are often prime targets for scammers and underhanded telemarketers because they're often home during the day when the call comes, and may be lonely and enjoy having someone to talk to and pay attention to them. A friendly-sounding stranger calling can quickly win the confidence of some and may tell them they've "won prizes" or that they are offered a "great deal" on nonexistent merchandise. To cover the alleged postage and handling they will be asked to divulge credit card or banking information.

Unfortunately, the elderly may be taken advantage of by a family member, and it is up to responsible family members to keep watch for their elderly relative. If an elderly person is pressured into a loan, or to "buy" something that is overpriced, the person committing the act may in fact be breaking the law, as "lack of capacity" either mental or physical, can be assumed to be a lack of consent in criminal law.

Changes in Medicare laws have opened the door to scammers who take advantage of the confusion that often surrounds changes. Official looking correspondence requesting the victim call the number provided on the correspondence has led to devastating losses as when the number is called, when the victim is asked to verify who they are by providing personal information such as social security number and banking information.

If an official looking piece of mail is received, the person should call a trusted phone number that they know belongs to the office, such as a person through the Medicare program they've dealt with in the past to verify the correspondence.

"The bottom line is, if anyone has any doubt or any questions, call us at the Sheriff's Office," said Bennett.

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