By Charlotte Caldwell
SIDNEY – Scammers are always trying new methods to get money, and a popular option has been over the phone with gift cards. Shelby County Sheriff Jim Frye said the best way to avoid these scams is to “hang up your phone and report it to your local authorities.”
In August, the Sheriff’s Office received reports of a phone scam where the caller identified himself as a Shelby County Sheriff’s deputy or detective and told the victim they had a warrant and to avoid being arrested they needed to pay in gift cards or post bond. Most of the callers asked for $4,000 in gift cards.
“We will never call a person with a warrant and tell them they have a warrant. We will always serve them in person,” Frye said. “Most of the scammers are from overseas and there’s no way we could track them down and make an arrest.”
“Once the citizen gives the numbers from the gift cards, there is no getting the money back,” Frye said.
And it’s not just gift cards; scammers might also ask for cash, wire transfers or cryptocurrency, according to a report on consumer scams from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
“We had a person who was scammed out of their savings and sent a box full of cash to an address outside of the state of Ohio. This money was sent to a vacant house and the scammers just watched the house until the package arrived. We were just a bit late and never got the money back,” Frye said.
Besides requests to immediately send payment, the Attorney General’s Office mentioned other signs of a scam:
• You’re pressured to “act now!”;
• You have a pay a fee to receive your “prize”;
• Your personal information is requested;
• A large down payment is requested;
• The company refuses to provide any information in writing;
• You’re asked to keep conversations a secret;
• You’re guaranteed to make money;
• You’ve won a contest that you’ve never heard of or entered.
“Some scammers ‘phish’ for your personal information using cleverly designed calls, texts or emails. They pretend to be your bank, a trusted website or a government agency, asking you to update or confirm your account by providing your bank account number, password or Social Security number. Never respond to unexpected requests for your personal information, even if the caller appears to have some details about you or your account. Also, be aware that scammers can disguise or ‘spoof’ the number appearing on your caller ID — so that the caller ID shows a local area code even though the call is coming from another country,” the Attorney General’s report said.
Frye said gift card scams happen every year, and other methods he’s seen involve the lottery, identity theft, computer issues, the IRS, children/grandchildren in jail, vehicle sales, home improvement and checks.
“They (scammers) target our older population because sometimes they are very believing people and want to see the best in everyone. But scammers are after one thing and that’s your hard-earned money,” Frye said. “If you think you’re being scammed, call law enforcement or speak with a family member. Don’t be afraid to hang up and don’t send any money.”
For more information on scams and other consumer services, visit https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/consumers.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.