Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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July 17, 2014

Detective recovers nearly $7K in case

Officials give tips to help avoid scams

JACKSONVILLE — When a Jacksonville woman became a victim of a scam, Jacksonville Police Detective Greg Compton stopped at nothing to solve the case.

In early January, Compton said a neighbor of a 94-year-old woman reported that someone had “taken advantage of her.”

He began investigating the case, but it wasn't until May that the suspect was identified. Once on the phone with the suspect, Compton explained the problem.

“He said he was going to pave her driveway for $6,800, but they were just going around targeting elderly individuals to do driveway work. They charged an exuberant amount of money to do a little bit of work,” Compton said.

The elderly victim was “still pretty sharp, but they got her kind of confused,” he said.

After the woman refused the driveway repairs, the man talked her into repairing some front boards on her house for the same price, Compton said.

The Smith County suspect agreed to return the Jacksonville woman's money July 1, and the victim decided not to file charges since the money was reimbursed.

“My victim really never figured that she would see her money again,” Compton said. “I had made up my mind that I was going to get this lady's money back one way or another.”

Compton said he was glad that his hard work paid off, literally, for the victim.

“You don't take advantage of people like that,” he said.

He said his best advice to help someone avoid being scammed is to always be suspicious of someone who comes to your home to do work.

“If they were not summoned there, be very suspicious. There are some good people, but the majority (who do this) are scam artists. Nine times out of 10, they also don't have the experience to do a good job," Compton said.

He added that a trustworthy business person would be listed with the Better Business Bureau, have a tax identification number and be a licensed contractor.

He admits that this tactic is not fair to that one person included in the 10 who is a honest worker. However, the odds are in favor of a person becoming a victim, so he advises folks to beware.

One attribute Compton gave his victim was that she paid with a check instead of cash. He said this allowed him to work with the bank to track down the suspect.

Meanwhile, another JPD detective has been working to solve different type of scam. Detective Tonya Harris is investigating two “grandparent scams” that were reported earlier this year, Compton said.

According to the BBB, a resident receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild, claiming he or she is traveling abroad and is in trouble. The "grandchild" might claim to have caused a car accident or is in trouble with the law and requires money to be wired immediately. Victims may also be contacted by someone claiming to be a police officer or lawyer representing the alleged grandchild in court. In either case, the "grandchild" pleads with the grandparents to not tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons including posting bail, repairing the grandchild's car, covering lawyer's fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the so-called grandchild injured in a car accident.

“A grandparent’s worst nightmare is to find out that their grandchild has been injured or is in a catastrophic situation,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “With access to a potential lifetime of savings, seniors are prime targets for scam artists who will plot to take advantage of their desire to help a loved one.”

The BBB provides the following tips to help keep consumers from falling prey to the Grandparent Scam.

Communicate. Share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.

Share information. Provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.

Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says "It's me, Grandma!" don't respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is.

One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know, such as what school he or she goes to or the name of the family pet.

Know the red flags.  The common factors in these calls are: The grandparent receives a frantic phone call. The “grandchild” explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help. The "grandchild" pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents. The “grandchild” asks that they wire thousands of dollars to posting bail, repair the car, cover lawyer's fees, or pay hospital bills for the grandchild or a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.

If you do fall victim to the "Grandparent Scam,"  report the incident immediately to BBB and local police.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report a fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: (903) 581-8373.

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