BONIFAY — Phone scams are one of the oldest methods of fraud, with many designed to target senior citizens.
Recently, a Holmes County resident reported she was the intended victim of a scammer who used the “Grandparent Scam” method, along with the “Law Enforcement Scam” by pretending to be a deputy with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office who had her adult son in custody. Fortunately, this resident was able to recognize the signs of this scam and avoided becoming a victim.
"As your Sheriff, I want to ensure you are aware of the latest trends in scams and how to protect yourself from them," Holes County Sheriff John Tate said. "If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at 850-547-4421."
Tate said currently there are numerous scams that are happening in the county including:
The Grandparent Scam - Someone calls pretending to be a loved one - usually a grandchild, but sometimes a child – and says they are in trouble. The “trouble” can range from an accident to being in jail. The caller asks for money, giving a few details to make the story seem realistic. Sometimes, the caller will put another person on the line who claims to be a doctor, attorney, or law enforcement officer.
Tate said to avoid this scam, resist the pressure to act quickly.
"Try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate," he said. "Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail...especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash—once you send it, you can’t get it back."
The Internal Revenue Service Scam - You get a call from a number claiming to represent the IRS. These calls are frequently robocalls but are occasionally made by an individual. The caller or recorded message claims you owe the IRS money and says you will be arrested or face other legal action if you don't pay immediately.
To avoid this scam, Tate said to hang up and Never return a phone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS and instead, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. He said to remember that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method or that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
"The IRS will also not threaten to call law enforcement to arrest you for non-payment or "blacklist" your social security number or driver's license," he said.
The Social Security Scam - A caller claims your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity, or because it’s been involved in a crime. The scammers often "spoof" phone numbers, making the call appear legitimate.
Tate said HCSO DOES NOT solicit by phone to advise of unpaid debts of any kind and payments related to warrants and/or citations are handled directly through the Court. He said hang up if you ever get a phone call like this.
The Law Enforcement Scam - Scammers sometimes fake caller information so the numbers of legitimate local law enforcement agencies are shown on an intended victim's phone screen. They may even use the actual names of local law enforcement personnel, claiming the victim has a warrant.
Tate said HCSO DOES NOT solicit by phone to advise of unpaid debts of any kind. In addition, he said payments related to warrants and/or citations are handled directly through the Court. He said hang up if you ever get a phone call like this.
The Free Money Scam - You get a call (or sometimes, a letter) saying you won a lottery or sweepstakes such as "Publisher's Clearing House." The caller says you can claim your prize after you pay a “processing fee."
Tate said hang up. He said legitimate lotteries or sweepstakes will never require a payment in order to win a prize.