As your Sheriff, I am constantly being made aware of attempted scams both in Washington Parish and elsewhere. I want to mention a few and remind everyone to be very cautious when contacted by someone you do not know.
There is a simple rule of thumb that everyone should remember. The FBI, IRS, Social Security Administration, Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office and other public agencies never contact you by phone and demand that you send them money.
I will briefly discuss scams that are currently being tried throughout the country, including Washington Parish.
A sinister scam that originated in the northeastern United States is beginning to make its way to the southeast. The scam begins when someone receives an email or text from firstname.lastname@example.org stating that the person receiving the email will be killed if they do not click on the link provided at the bottom of the email. Do not click on the link! It usually contains a virus which will enable the sender to access personal information such as bank accounts or passwords which may be on your computer. If you receive an email or text like this, do not open it. Delete it immediately!
In a January 2017 news release, the Better Business Bureau warns about scams of 2016 which most likely will continue to operate in 2017.
The BBB reports that the top three scams on the 2016 list were tax scams, debt collection scams, and sweepstakes or gift-related scams. New to the top ten list of scams are online purchase scams and work-from home scams and employment scams.
The BBB tells how to spot a scam. “Phone calls suggesting tax or debt collections should be handled with extreme caution. Reputable collection agencies will provide specific information and allow time to research and a way to contact them. If a phone caller or email suggests payment through a money order, prepaid credit cards or gift cards, it is likely a scam. Solicitors who become aggressive or threaten punishment are a sign of scam tactics.” All such scams result in an estimated annual loss of $50 billion to individuals and families.
One of the most prolific scams is operated by Jamaican lottery phone scammers who are able to steal approximately $300 million each year from innocent victims. Victims of this scam are told if they pay an upfront tax or administrative fee they will receive millions in prize money. The lottery winnings are not real and the scam victims will never see their money again.
The BBB lists five signs of a Jamaican lottery scam.
- The call comes from area code 876. However, scammers sometimes change their caller ID. Regardless of the number, always be suspicious.
- You don’t remember entering a lottery or contest.
- The caller requests upfront fees be paid.
- You receive multiple calls.
- The caller tells you to keep your winnings secret
The BBB offers one more interesting bit of information. While the perception is that seniors are most likely to be scammed, this is not correct. A study released in 2016 reveals that millennials are actually more vulnerable to scams than baby boomers. The study revealed that while 11% of seniors reported losing money, 34% of millennials lost money.
Whatever your age, be overly cautious when responding to any phone call, letter, email or text which is suspicious. Such requests should be thrown away or deleted.