08/26/13 — Phone scams swindle citizens

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Phone scams swindle citizens

By John Joyce
Published in News on August 26, 2013 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office has seen a recent spike in the number of reported telephone scams, which dupe Wayne County citizens out of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars.

The calls are coming from area codes ranging from Washington, D.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, to as far away as Honduras, sheriff's office officials said.

Sometimes the recipient of the phone call is told he or she has won "free" money. Other times they are threatened.

"They're calling and saying, 'Hey, your daughter has been in an accident and the guy whose car she hit is a gang member who is going to kill her if you don't send money to pay for the damage,'" said Lt. Tom Flores of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

The victim generally mentions a name in his or her response, giving the scammer all the information he or she needs to continue the scam, including threatening to kill the loved one if the victim goes to the police or if the money is not sent.

The scammer asks that the money be sent via Western Union or sometimes placed on a pre-paid debit card, with the numbers provided to the caller.

Another recent scheme popping up in Wayne County has to do with federal grant money, local officials say.

The ruse is that a $9,000 government grant is available if the victim is willing to send money in advance to cover taxes and transaction fees.

A Wayne County man was recently swindled out of more than $1,500 before catching on that he was being scammed.

Flores was contacted by a scam artist using this particular scenario, intending to make the investigator a victim.

The seasoned investigator did not fall for the scam, but is concerned that the average citizen might not know what to look out for.

It is almost impossible to investigate these crimes because technology allows scammers to use area codes of cities all over the world.

They can use SKYPE, Magic Jack, or pre-paid cell phones that have no subscriber information to trace, officials said.

Law enforcement is encouraging citizens to be aware of these type of scams and either not answer, ignore or report these types of calls if and when they are received.

No reputable firm or agency should ever ask for money up front, or promise to pay out money without having provided a service.