By Eugenia Jones
McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters reported his office has recently been receiving reports of scam phone calls throughout the county.
“We’ve gotten a lot of scam phone call complaints concerning fake publisher clearing house prizes or scammers calling people, identifying themselves as being from the IRS or law enforcement and stating there is an outstanding warrant for the person’s arrest,” Waters explained. “The caller then goes on to demand a payment of money from the individual in order to avoid arrest.”
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) warns against the following common phone scams:
1. Health insurance scams stating open enrollment has passed but an individual can still get coverage. The goal is to get private information to sell to others.
2. Jury duty scam stating a warrant has been issued for your arrest. The goal is to get the individual to pay a large “fine” to avoid arrest.
3. Social Security scam. The goal is to get private information by convincing the individual that someone is using their Social Security card to commit crimes.
4. Pain center scam for knee braces, etc. This is most often associated with Medicare fraud. Generally, the individual will receive a low-quality knee or back brace and the government is billed.
AARP recommends not answering calls and not returning one-ring calls from unknown numbers. Additionally, AARP recommends the following. Never give personal or financial information over the phone or by email. If a caller or email asks you to confirm information, don’t do it-that’s a way scammers get information. Don’t follow instructions on pre-recorded messages from unknown numbers such as “Press 1 to talk to an operator” or “Press 5 to be taken off a call list” as doing so will probably just lead to more calls Never pay registration or shipping fees to get a free product or prize. This is just another way for scammers to get money and your financial information.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to avoid scams:
1. Never send money via gift card or wire transfer to someone you have never met face-to-face.
2. Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails.
3. Don’t believe everything you see. Just because a website or email looks official, doesn’t make it so.
4. Double check that your online purchase is secure before checking out.
5. Use extra, extra caution when dealing with anyone you’ve met online.
6. Never share personally identifiable information. If someone contacts you by phone, email, social media, or even at your house, do not give out (or confirm) personal information such as birthdate, Social Security number, credit card, banking information, etc.
7. Resist any pressure to act quickly. Scammers like to make you think something is “for a limited time only” or “on a limited basis.” They often do not want you to contact any else about their so-called deal and to just trust them. By pushing you to act quickly, scammers are trying to take away any opportunity for you to “think it through” or get advice.
8. Use secure and traceable transactions. Do not pay by wire transfer, prepaid money or gift cards, or other non-traditional methods. Do not buy into cash-only or high up-front payment deals.
9. When possible, work with local businesses.
10. Be cautious about what you share on social media. Connect with people you know and use appropriate privacy settings. Scammers often get information about people on-line through social media and can approach and come off sounding like a friend or family member.
Sheriff Waters warns residents to be wary.
“If you think you’ve received a scam call, get the phone number if possible and contact us or Kentucky State Police,” Waters advised. “We will check it out and find out if it is a scam. Don’t call back or take any action on these types of calls until you have talked with a law enforcement officer. Always try to get the phone number, and if you are supposed to meet someone, arrange the meeting at the Sheriff’s office or 911 office.”
Sheriff Waters also cautions residents to never give out personal information and emphasizes being careful of phone calls from unknown people.
“Now, scammers are even cloning phone numbers,” Sheriff Waters warned. “They use a number with a local prefix or identical local number and that number shows up. If you get a call from a number that looks like law enforcement, it may be cloned.”
County Attorney Austin Price noted his office deals with scams of a local nature.
“My office deals primarily with scammers who borrow something from someone and then sell whatever they borrowed,” Price said. “We help get what was taken back to the rightful owner. Sometimes, we can accomplish that with a phone call; however, sometimes, it takes pressing charges.
County Attorney Price had some recommendations of his own for avoiding local scams.
“Use common sense,” Price advised. “Use the same judgement you would use when you go to a flea market. If someone is trying to sell you something, feel them out and verify how reliable the person is-especially if you are getting a firearm for a real deal. If folks aren’t careful, the final buyer can end up stuck with the consequences.”
Price also observed that scammers often take advantage of the elderly.
“Check on your elderly family members and friends,” Price recommended. “Especially if they have just gone through a traumatic experience such as losing a spouse or child. These people can be vulnerable targets because they may not be accustomed to paying the bills and taking care of finances.”
Attorney Price knows how easy it can be to fall victim to a scam.
“Scammers work hard to get something from people,” Price stated. “Scammers are out there, and they are convincing.”
According to usa.gov, it is important to report scams and frauds. The government agency recommends the following:
Start by reporting scams to your local government and state consumer protection office. If you have lost money or other possessions in a scam, also report it to local law enforcement.
Report disaster and emergency scams to the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s web complaint form or call 866-720-5721.
Report most common scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or phone at 1-877-3824357. Scams reported here include phone calls, emails, computer support scams, imposter scams, fake checks, demands for you to send money, student loan or scholarship scans, and prize/sweepstakes offers.
The FTC also collects reports of identity theft.
Report online and international scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (YC3) or econsumer.gov.
Report IRS Imposter Scams at 1-800-366-4484.