Jacksonville Police officials said there has been a recent increase in the number of residents reporting being victims of scams and with with holiday season upcoming, the department has some tips to avoid becoming a victim.
“We have see an increase this year from one report every few months to two and three a month now,” Police Chief Reece Daniel said.
Daniel said one of the more prevalent scams involves a person calling claiming to be a relative in a foreign country and has been involved in an accident, arrested, needs funding for a funeral or business or lost money to get back home to the States.
He said a good scam artist can gather information from social websites and public records to convince their relatives that they are who they claim to be and ask them to wire money for bail or a plane ticket home.
Daniel said the first step in guarding against scammers is to question the caller carefully without giving any more personal information for their use. He said if it is properly done, the scammer will usually hang up and move on.
“Should you continue to talk to them they will give you a telephone number that is supposed to be the U.S. Consulate or U.S. Embassy,” he said. “That number will be answered by an official-sounding person who is an accomplice and will confirm the bogus story in an attempt to get you to send money to the purported relative.”
Daniel said it never hurts to call relatives to confirm the story before sending cash, and local police departments and the FBI can track down the proper foreign offices to decipher if it a scam or legitimate.
“Prosecution of foreign criminals is next to impossible, so the best defense is to be suspicious of any request for you to wire money overseas or to Mexico,” Daniel said. “Not becoming a victim is the best course of action because the chances of a successful prosecution are slim and you will never get your money back.”
Capt. John Raffield with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department said they have not seen an increase in the number of scams reported, but said their most common scam involves claims that the victim has won the lottery.
He said the scammer will tell the victim they won millions of dollars but must send in money to cover the taxes on the winnings. He said the scammer may send them a check for $3,000 and instruct the victim to keep $1,000 and send the rest back through Western Union.
“They end up having you pay for the total amount on the check,” he said. “It shows good after five days in the bank, then three days later you get a call from the bank saying, 'hey that check wasn't any good,'” Raffield said.
Anyone with questions on common scams can contact the Jacksonville Police Department Crime Prevention Unit at 903-586-2236.