Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre is again warning residents about telephone scams as they continue to plague the trusting, hard-working citizens of Lafourche Parish.
“We continue to receive calls from victims who sent money to scam artists believing the call to be legitimate,” said Sheriff Webre. “Thankfully, though, we are also receiving calls from citizens reporting they were the target of a scam, but did not send money. Especially for someone on hard times, it can be very exciting to receive a phone call from someone stating you have won a large sum of money or a new car. The reality, though, is it’s usually too good to be true.”
Here are some signs of a probable scam:
• You are told to send money in order to pay taxes or shipping charges for a larger amount of money or other luxury prize.
• You have to send payment “immediately” via electronic money order or by purchasing a prepaid card and then giving the caller the number.
• You receive a call from your bank or one of your service providers asking you to send money or give personal information on the phone for some purpose such as a “renewal.”
• You receive a call from a law enforcement agency (sheriff’s office, police department, FBI, etc.) telling you to send bail money for a relative, or you are told to pay fines or you will be arrested.
• You are told you have been chosen for a federal grant, but are required provide personal information or funding to receive it.
• You are contacted by someone offering new Medicare or medical insurance cards who ask for your current account numbers.
• You receive a check or bank draft from an unknown person who instructs you to cash the check and wire a portion of the money back to them.
• The caller uses offensive or vulgar language.
As soon as you recognize a possible scam, hang up the phone and report the call to the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office. Also, if you fall prey once to the scammer, you will be a repeat target. In many cases, the victim sends money to the scammer, only to receive a second call asking for additional funds.
“These criminals also attempt to have victims send money ‘right now’ by concocting a convincing story to make you believe you have no time to check on its validity,” said Sheriff Webre. “With the advent of social media, our personal information we once thought was private is now out there for the world to see. Even if you do not use social media, the information children or grandchildren post online might be the target of a scam artist. The bottom line is this: Use common sense when giving out personal information, and before you send money to anyone, ALWAYS validate the origin of the request. If you cannot do this on your own, contact our agency and we will assist you BEFORE you become the next scam victim.”
In the case of receiving a check from an unknown person who asks for a portion in return, simply inquire about the validity of the check with your bank.
If you receive a call you believe may be legitimate, simply hang up and find the agency or company’s contact information on your own; never dial any number the caller provides. If it is a legitimate call, they should have no problem with you calling them back. Remember, giving personal information over the phone can be safe in some cases if YOU initiate the call and you are sure the number you are dialing is legitimate.
“We are asking our citizens to be proactive,” said Sheriff Webre. “Please talk to your family members and friends and make sure they are educated on this issue. “Scam artists are looking to exploit the elderly and trusting citizens of our community, and we want this message to reach everyone.”
These safe practices should also be used when dealing with door-to-door salespeople, emails, and online sales and services. For more information on how you can protect yourself, please visit the Senior and Victims Services section of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff Office Website. You can also visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website for several articles on scams and fraud: www.fbi.gov/scams-safety. Green Dot’s MoneyPak website also features an approved businesses list, stating, “If anyone else asks for your MoneyPak number or information from your receipt, it’s probably a scam.” The list can be found at www.moneypak.com. You can also visit the Consumer Protection Center on Western Union’s website: www.westernunion.com.