Scam Alert!

Published 9:47 am Thursday, May 29, 2014

JACKSON – The Northampton County Sheriff’s Office has received a report about a possible scam by telephone.

A Northampton County resident received a phone call saying they had won $850,000 from Publishers Clearing House. The caller stated that $985 was needed to process the winnings.

According to information shared by the resident with Northampton County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Barnes, they were instructed to go to Walmart and purchase a Green Dot Money Pack reloader card.

“While she was on the way to purchase the card, she received several more calls from the same number and that threw up a red flag to the resident,” said Northampton County Sheriff’s Captain Chuck Hasty. “The resident told the caller that she wanted to talk with family before buying the card.  She returned home and contacted the Sheriff’s Office.”

While the deputy was at her residence, she received another call and Barnes spoke with the caller who in turned use profanity and hung up on him. The resident did not suffer any loss through this scam.

“This type of scam wants you to purchase the money cards because it is very difficult for them to be traced by law enforcement,” Hasty noted.

Northampton County Sheriff’s Office has also had a report of a different type of scam…people calling saying that money is owed for an old debt; if the person doesn’t pay immediately then the police will be sent to the person’s house to be arrested.

However, Hasty said if there is indeed an old, unpaid debt, there is a civil process for the person to collect money that does not involve someone being arrested.

Hasty urged Northampton residents who feel they are being scammed to report any suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency. He also offered these tips:

What Not to Do     

Don’t send money to someone you don’t know.

Not to an online seller you’ve never heard of — or an online love interest who asks for money. It’s best to do business with sites you know and trust. If you buy items through an online auction, consider using a payment option that provides protection, like a credit card.

Don’t agree to deposit a check and wire money back.

By law, banks have to make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. You’re responsible for the checks you deposit: If a check turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for paying back the bank. No matter how convincing the story, someone who overpays with a check is almost certainly a scam artist.

Don’t reply to messages asking for personal or financial information.

It doesn’t matter whether the message comes as an email, a phone call, a text message, or an advertisement, do not click on links or call phone numbers included in the message, either. It’s called phishing. The crooks behind these messages are trying to trick you into revealing sensitive information. If you got a message like this and you are concerned about your account status, call the number on your credit or debit card — or your statement — and check on it.

Don’t play a foreign lottery

Messages that tout your chances of winning a foreign lottery, or messages that claim you’ve already won, can be tempting. Inevitably, you have to pay “taxes,” “fees,” or “customs duties” to collect your prize. If you must send money to collect, you haven’t won anything. And if you send any money, you will lose it. You won’t get any money back, either, regardless of promises or guarantees.

What to Do

Know who you’re dealing with.

Know that wiring money is like sending cash.

Read your monthly statements.

Remember there’s no sure thing in investing.

These are some of the top scam from the Better Business Bureau:

Overpayment and Fake Check Scams

With overpayment scams, fraudsters play the role of buyer and target consumers selling a product or service. It usually works this way: The buyer “accidentally” sends you a check for more than the amount they owe you. They ask you to deposit it into your bank account and then wire them the difference. A deposited check can take several days or more to clear. When the original check turns out to be a fake and bounces, the victim is still on the hook to pay the bank back for any money withdrawn.

Fake checks can be used for any type of scam, so always wait for a deposit to clear before writing checks against the funds.

Emergency Scams

Scammers make up an urgent situation—I’ve been arrested, I’ve been mugged, I’m in the hospital—and target friends and family with pleas for help, and money.

The Grandparent Scam is one version of the emergency scam: A young person poses as a grandchild with an emergency and appeals to family members to help them immediately. Don’t believe everything you hear, and be sure to verify the emergency situation before you give them any contact information, and especially before you send any money.

Another variation is the relationship scam. You meet a great person online, everything seems to be going great but you aren’t able to meet yet for any variety of reasons (distance, military deployment, work travel, etc.). Suddenly your online love interest has an emergency and needs you to wire money, and as soon as you do, he or she will continue to find more reasons to ask for money from you. Remember, you should never wire money to someone that you don’t personally know or trust or haven’t met in person

Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams

Lottery or prize scams follow two similar patterns:

1. Victims get an unsolicited phone call, email, letter or fax from someone claiming to work for a government agency or representing a well-known organization or celebrity, notifying them that they’ve won a lot of money or a prize. The scammer gains their trust and explains that, in order to collect the winnings, they first have to send a small sum of money to pay for processing fees or taxes. Following these instructions, victims immediately wire the money, but never get their “winnings.” And they’re out the money they paid for “fees and taxes.”

2. Victims get an unsolicited check or money order and directions to deposit the money, and immediately wire a portion of it back to cover processing fees or taxes. Soon after this, victims learn that the checks are counterfeit, but have already wired the money to cover the “taxes” and can’t get it back. And they’re on the hook to pay their banks back for any money they withdrew.

Home Improvement Scams

Look out for home improvement contractors who leave your home worse than they found it. They usually knock on your door with a story or a deal—the roofer who can spot some missing shingles on your roof, the paver with some leftover asphalt who can give you a great deal on driveway resealing. Itinerant contractors move around, keeping a step ahead of the law… and angry consumers.

Identity Theft Scams

There are a million ways to steal someone’s identity and once thieves have your personal information, they can max out your credit cards, drain your bank account, and ruin your credit rating.

Identity theft scams come in all shapes and sizes—friends or grandchildren “stranded” in a foreign country, the hotel front desk “verifying” your credit card in the middle of the night, “charity” solicitations from groups you’ve never supported in the past.

Never, ever give your Social Security/Social Insurance, bank account or credit card numbers to someone who has contacted you to ask for them.

Phishing Scams

“Phishing” is when you receive an email telling you that you’ve won a contest or that a company needs to verify personal information. Links in the email can take you to a site that downloads a virus on your computer to hunt for your sensitive data. Virus protection software on your computer can help, but the best protection is a good sense of judgment.

Legitimate companies and government agencies are not going to ask you to confirm your personal information in this way. Be wary of links in social media, too. Some apps, humorous websites, contests or links to shocking videos are just distractions to get you to click on something that downloads malware onto your computer.