The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office has received numerous phone calls and reports this past month from Watauga County citizens regarding being scammed or defrauded, according to Sheriff Len Hagaman.
All of the potential suspects in these scams have been located out of state. The persons trying to deceive the citizens do so by selling an item via the internet that does not exist, represent themselves as a government official asking the citizen to pay money owed to the government, tell the individual that they have won a large sum of money or other prize and request money be paid via a money order and request money be paid on a fraudulent account that the person did not set up or the individual will be reported to the local authorities for prosecution.
Some of these suspects have identified themselves as IRS agents when asking for money to be paid to the IRS. Many of the callers use various phone services such as “Magic Jack” which allows them to use the phone at different locations in different states and countries. Some of these numbers will look as though it is an out of area number. These numbers, much like pay as you go cell phones, are easily changed and difficult to track.
Sheriff Hagaman would like to remind everyone to never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expirations dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons. It is important to remember to never respond to an offer that you do not thoroughly understand and to always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you to make a snap decision.
Do not pay for a “free prize”. If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she could be in violation of federal law. Obtain the caller’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. Some con artists give out false names, telephone numbers, addresses, and business license numbers. Verify the accuracy of these items.
Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford also adds, “as in the county, as warmer weather begins, we see more home repair and home improvement scams.” “Having more ‘traditional' neighborhoods in Boone, we want folks to be especially cautious with teams of door to door scam artists visit the area and often try and lure unsuspecting citizens – usually by asking for the homeowner to step outside, or to another part of the house – while their partner in crime quickly goes through the house, looking for items to steal.” “Please, if there is any question, call law enforcement.”