Scam artists come in every form and from every angle, preying on unsuspecting victims – no area in the country is immune to it, and that includes the Gingerbread City.

Waxahachie residents Carl and Joyce Harbert received a phone call Friday afternoon which promised to change their finances  for the rest of their lives.

“A lady named Mary Benson, who had a heavy accent, called us this afternoon (Friday) and told us we had won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes,” Joyce said, adding she was told that the (Publisher’s Clearing House) would pay 95 percent of the tax on the winnings if the Harberts would pay 5 percent. “She told us to wire the money to a certain address through Western Union and to be sure and get a receipt. She then told me they would bring us the money and a new car to our house in the late afternoon.”

Harbert called the Waxahachie Police Department, and an officer was sent to their home. When Harbert called the party while the officer was at their home to finalize the arrangements, the officer took the phone to talk and when he did, Benson hung up.

“We just want to let the public know that people are out there trying to prey on older people and the disabled,” Harbert said. “They want to take advantage of people, and I guess this is a good time of the year for them because the holidays are coming up.”

Harbert said she called the Publisher’s Clearing House organization that afternoon and was informed by a representative what their protocol was.

“The person from the actual Publisher’s Clearing House told me to never send money under any circumstances,” Harbert said. “He said (The Publisher’s Clearing House) would never ask for money from anyone that was a winner.”

WPD community relations and crime prevention officer Wess Winn offers tips on how to prevent being taken by scam artists.

“First of all, if something comes along and seems too good to be true, it is,” Winn said. “I’ve written about the dangers of being scammed in some of my columns and I always tell people if it’s an offer that doesn’t seem quite right, I tell them to say ‘Let me call a friend and run this by them.’  If the party calling to make the ‘offer’ doesn’t have time, then people should just tell they ‘bye.’”

Winn said some of the things to watch for are callers with strong accents.

“Most of these people are from either Jamaica or Nigeria,” Winn said, adding most scam artists have a forwarding address which is out of the country and it’s next to impossible for FBI or law enforcement to track it.

“If people get a suspicious call, ask them where they’re calling from,” Winn said. “By simply Googling the area code and number, you can tell if it’s someone calling to try to swindle you.”

If area residents suspect they have been a victim of a scam, contact the Waxahachie Police Department at 972-937-9940 for information.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.