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Beware of telephone and email scams reported here

Telephone and email scammer attacks have become rampant throughout the country.  It’s not uncommon to open up an email and there is a letter from someone claiming to be in Africa or another foreign country who will send you money if you respond and provide your banking information.  Telephone fraud, too, is a nationwide problem with some calls hitting home in Johnson County recently.

This past week, Barbara Freyermuth received a phone call from a man whom she described as having a heavy and foreign accent claiming to be with UPS. Freyermuth, knowing she was not expecting a package, asked him to repeat where he was from.  The caller asked if she was going to be home all day.  Freyermuth quickly hung up the telephone and contacted CenturyLink’s legal department and Johnson County’s sheriff department.  Freyermuth noted the area code on the call she received was 876, which is an area code for Jamaica.  

John Davis recently contacted The Tomahawk with information that he and his wife had received a phone call last week from someone claiming they had won money and a new car.  Davis relayed, “They told us they had a bunch of money and a Mercedes and claimed that Walmart would pay 99 percent of the taxes.” According to Davis, the caller informed them that in order to claim their prize, they would need them to send money for the remaining one percent via Western Union to a bank in Texas.  Once that money was received, they would receive a deposit in their own bank account.  After hanging up on the caller, they immediately received another call back wanting to talk to Mrs. Davis.  Davis added the caller had a heavy accent and even knew the name of their bank.

Telephone fraud and scamming occurs all over the world.  Scammers not only attempt to milk money out of their victims, but they often obtain bank account numbers, credit card numbers and personal identity information.  One of the most common forms of scamming involves both emails and telephone calls.  Potential victims are told they have won a foreign lottery, illegal in the United States.  They are asked for not only their banking information but their Social Security number. Veterans are also attacked as they receive phone calls informing them there have been changes to their medical plans.  The scammers attempt to get personal information as they claim it is needed for verification purposes. Potential victims often receive telephone calls from someone claiming they work in the security office of their bank and ask for personal information.  One of the most widespread scams in the United States is the claim that the victim has been awarded a large sum of money coming from government grants.  However, they must pay the taxes first to collect these monies and need to provide a credit card or send money to collect their grant.  Often the elderly are among those most targeted in these scams.
According to Pat Elmore, Manager of Market Development for CenturyLink, reputable companies will not ask for financial or personal information over the telephone.  “People need to be aware and protect themselves,” warned Elmore. “Don’t give out personal information over the telephone or email.”  According to Elmore, there are many scams and they change constantly.  Scammers are particularly hard at work during the holiday season when people are busy and distracted.  A news release from CenturyLink added that customers need to be wary of callers claiming they are from the IRS or the Census Bureau.  Do not send money through Moneygram or Western Union unless you personally know the recipient.  Another common scam involves Mystery Shopper, wherein the victim receives notification they have been selected to participate in their program.  The victim will receive a check and then be asked to send the money back via Western Union or other money transfer companies.  While the bank may cash the check for their customer, the check will not clear, leaving the victim out of money and responsible for reimbursing the bank.  
People need to be wary of phone calls from area codes 876, 809, 649 and 282. Victims receive telephone messages to return the call, but once you call the number, you are connected to  Canada or the Caribbean, racking up international call rates.  If you do not make international phone calls, contact your telephone company to block any outgoing international calls.  In order to protect yourself, if you do not recognize a phone number or an area code, do not return the telephone call. People should remain guarded at all times in order to protect themselves, their identity and their finances.
If you receive a suspicious phone call that you believe is a scam, contact the sheriff’s department. According to Investigator Eller of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, these scams  are then reported to the Federal Trade Commission. The reports are followed up in an attempt to break up the scammer’s operations. Victims can also contact the Federal Trade Commission themselves to report any suspicious telephone calls or email scams.