Officials warn of new scam in area

Published 11:00 pm Friday, January 10, 2014

Residents need to be on the lookout for a new phone scam making its rounds through the Pike County community.

Charlotte Wood, of Troy, said she first became aware of the scam when her in-home helper received an offer that seemed to good to be true. “This person called my helper over a week ago,” Wood said. “He said that he was from the Publisher’s Clearing House and that she had won a new car and a million dollars. He gave her a number to call back and told her to give him her credit card information. She was real smart though and didn’t call back. We found out that the call came from Jamaica.”

Around a week later, Wood received a similar call. “The same person called me on Friday,” Wood said. “He told me the same thing — that I had won a million dollars and a new Mercedes Benz. It sounded so much like her deal. He asked for my credit card number and gave me another number to call. He said that I needed to call David Miller, a financial officer, in order to claim my prize. I knew what he was up to, so I didn’t call him back. When you call him back, he gets your phone number, then he will make charges to your number somehow.”

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Charlotte Bent, who works for Rep. Martha Roby, said she was advised by the Federal Trade Commission to alert Pike County residents of the scam. “A couple of folks in Troy have told me they have been victimized,” Bent said. “The FTC recommended that we let people in Troy know about this scam. The calls are coming from a 1-876 number out of Jamaica. If they call you back, they will charge phone calls to your phone. They also ask for a credit card so that they can overnight your documents so that you can claim your winnings. The trouble starts when you call them back.”

Lt. Bryan Weed of the Troy Police Department said scams like this have been popping up for a long time. “When a scammer like this calls you unsolicited, our advice is to tell them that you are not interested and ask that they take your name off their call list,” Weed said. “This scam is generally run from overseas whether it be in the Caribbean or West Africa. They change it up pretty regularly.”

Weed described a common scam similar to the one Mrs. Wood experienced. “One example might be someone calling and saying you won the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes,” Lt. Weed said. “They’ll say they need to know your name, address and date of birth. That’s not how winning contests work. If you didn’t enter any contests, then you won’t win a contest randomly. If you did win a contest, then you must have entered it, and the contest would have your information.”

Scammers like this prefer to prey on the elderly. “Scammers like to call people whom they think aren’t as financially savvy,” Lt. Weed said. “They prey on people like the elderly. That’s normally whom they’re looking for. Never give out your pertinent information to anyone who does not seem legitimate.”

While the Troy Police Department can investigate into claims of fraud or identity theft, there is little the department can do when the scammers call from other countries. “You can always report scams to us,” Weed said.

“We look in to all scams that are reported to us. It’s hard to do much, though, because the calls come in from different countries. There are two rules we have for dealing with calls like this. One, use good common sense. Two, if it sounds to good to be true, then it probably is.”