Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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August 27, 2013

HCSO: Scams are increasing

Examples given of locals who lost to people wanting to take them for money, possessions

Athens — Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt said he and his deputies have become increasingly alarmed about calls that are coming into residents of Henderson County. The calls are “scams” and are happening to “good, honest folks,” Nutt said.

The recent scam was reported in the Brownsboro area. A local resident received a phone call from an untraceable 800 number and the person on the other end of the phone reportedly “sounded like law enforcement” and told the Brownsboro resident that they were going to be extradited to the state of California for the crime of identity theft.

The Henderson County resident was quick to tell the “officer” that he had never been in California and made a wise decision and hung up the phone and did not carry on a conversation with the scammer. This call was reported to Chief Dep. Dan Parker immediately.

Another scam was reported to the sheriff’s department from the Cedar Creek Lake area. A Henderson County resident received a call from a person claiming to be her grandson. The scammer began the call by just saying “Grandma?” to which the receiver of the call replied, “Who is this?” and used her grandson’s name. At this point, the scammer had the loved one’s name and was able to portray himself as the grandson.

The scammer proceeded to talk to the woman and tell her that he was in a foreign country and was in trouble and in jail. The woman, being gravely concerned about her grandson, agreed to send a large amount of bail money to ensure her grandson’s release. The unsuspecting Henderson County resident sent cash.

The next phone call from the scammer  explained the need for more money and again, a large amount of cash was sent. On the next call, the scammer — still claiming to be the woman’s grandson — said he was ill and needed surgery. The woman again sent more cash, but this time she contacted the sheriff’s department. Some, but not all, of the money was recovered.

Athens Police Chief Buddy Hill said his department has also seen a few scams lately.

Not long ago he got a call from an Athens resident that said that he had just received a call about a luxury car that the Athens resident had won. The Athens resident was immediately suspicious of this call because he had not signed up for a contest to win a car.

The scammer on the other end of the phone said that the Athens resident only needed to pay the taxes on the car that was now being driven from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport to Athens. The scammer said the easiest way for the Athens resident to pay the taxes and show good faith to the contest was for him to go to his local Walmart store and load a gift card with the taxes due and give them a call back with the card number and the access number on the back of the card.

Hill said that he was with the Athens resident as the scammer called several times, sometimes being nice and  sometimes being horribly rude, but each time reminding the resident that his new luxury car was on its way to Athens.

After many calls back and forth, the phone was finally handed to Hill, who introduced himself to the caller. Hill told the scammer he had been monitoring all of the phone conversations. It is reported that no fancy luxury car showed up in Athens that day.

The Henderson County Sheriffs Office, along with all the local police departments, wants to urge all Henderson County citizens to not fall victim to these scammers.

Here are a few tips:

• Never give personal information, such as Social Security numbers or financial information, to anyone.

• If a call comes in from a “family member” and they say they are in trouble and need money, call the family member back on a number you know to be their contact number. Do not  use what is given to you over the phone. Or call another family member and confirm the emergency is a real emergency. Never  send money and always ask your banker or local law enforcement agency if you are doing the right thing.

• If you get mail or a phone call about a prize or large inheritance, but you are asked to provide “good faith” or “tax” money up front, do not respond. This is likely a scam.

• Watch your bank account and credit billing statements carefully each month for unauthorized activity, even if it is a small amount. Next month, it could be a larger sum.

• If you make online purchases, do this with a credit card, not a debit card. If your information is hacked, this is a streamline to your checking account.

• Check your credit. For a free annual report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com

If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a scammer, The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office urges you to contact your local law enforcement agency and make a report.

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