As the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department Investigator assigned to Financial and Fraud cases, I see an alarming number of people falling victim to scams. I see people lose as little as a couple hundred dollars to as much as to several thousand dollars. I decided to take this opportunity to point out some of the signs to show potential scams.
First, I will cover scams involving persons claiming to be law enforcement or other government employees. Normally, law enforcement personnel will not call you and tell you there is a warrant (exception being for unpaid traffic tickets) issued for or will be issued for your arrest.
Even if they do, they will never ask you to purchase gift cards to pay fines or for any other reason. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Real law enforcement understands the time we live in requires people to be skeptical to phone calls. Ask for call back numbers and tell them you will call them back to confirm they are who they say they are. Then look up the number for the agency they say they are calling from. Call that agency and confirm the person who contacted you actually is employed there. If so, ask to be connected to them. If you determine the person is not who they say they are, call your local law enforcement.
Some scammers prey on the elderly and will call and say their grandson or granddaughter has been in an accident or been arrested. Then they will ask for money to help them. In the “arrested” cases, they claim to be an attorney trying to get them out of jail. They will ask for money to pay bonds and other fees. Never, ever send them money. Call your loved ones or other family members and confirm they were arrested. They will tell you not to, but insist.
If you can’t reach anyone who knows for sure, call the jail where they are supposed to be, they will tell you if that person is in custody. They will try to tell you that time is of the essence. This is wrong. Everyone knows the government moves slowly, and jails are no different. The booking and release process takes time — there is a lot of paperwork.
Also, if they are in jail, they are safe. You may not want them in jail, but they will live. So do not rush into anything. Make sure what you are being told is true. Anyone who puts pressure on you is trying to scam you.
Lastly, the great deal scams: The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” should be your motto. DirecTV did not partner with eBay, former US Attorney General Eric Holder is not giving away grants, and anything else that promises huge returns for a small fee should be avoided.
This is probably one of the oldest scams ever. The first incident of this kind of scam dates back to 193 A.D. when the Praetorian Guard sold the throne to the highest bidder. The winning bid, made by a man named Julianus, was 250 pieces of gold for every soldier.
When Julianus tried to take his place on the throne, his claim was not recognized, and he was killed. This will not happen to today’s victims of scams; however, you could end up losing thousands of dollars.
These scams involving the scammer gaining your confidence. They make you believe what they say is true. They may pretend to be a relative who can only communicate with you via text or Facebook Messenger. They may tell you they were successful in getting the promised money, and they just want to tell you how to get it, too.
They will tell you there are fees, or you must pay for the bargain deal using gift cards. Grants do not have fees to get money, and no one can only be paid in gift cards. Scammers need your trust; I say trust, but verify.
There are many different types of scams out there. Anyone can fall victim to one. You can avoid becoming a victim by doing your research. If someone calls claiming to be from a law enforcement or government agency, hang up and do an internet search for the number for that agency. Call them and ask them to confirm they called you.
If someone calls saying your family member needs help, call the family member directly or another family member and confirm they have an issue. If someone offers you a great deal to save lots of money or make lots of money, research it on the web.
Lastly, trust your gut; if it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t. Your first impression is normally right.
Please share this with your friends, family and neighbors. Let us all work together to stop fraud in its tracks.