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Sheriff warns of scams

Charlotte County Sheriff Royal Freeman is warning citizens about an increase in scams that have been reported in the area recently.

“As this is the time of the year that there is an increase in targeting many citizens, Freeman said. “We encourage our citizens to beware and report a scam”.

Freeman said if citizens receive a suspicious call, email, text message, computer/smartphone pop-up, or another type of contact that they believe may be a scam or think they may have been the victim of a scam, they should report it.

A study by Better Business Bureau and the Stanford Center for Longevity revealed that around 53% of all people scammers approach would engage, while the other 47% immediately will become suspicious and ignore the approach.

According to Freeman, the following list is common types of scams being seen in the area.

• A supposed police officer with a local law enforcement department calls explaining that you have missed court and must pay a fine immediately or you will be arrested.

• An alleged utility company calls stating that you are past due, and your services will be shut off if you do not pay immediately.

• A person pretending to be an attorney or bondsman calls stating that a grandchild has been arrested and needs money for an attorney or bond.

• A fake IRS Agent calls stating you owe back taxes and will be arrested if you do not pay immediately.

• A scammer sends an email to the secretary or accounting staff of a faith-based organization that appears to be from the leader of the organization requesting payment be made to another bank.

• Caller states that you have missed jury duty and must pay a fine or immediately or be arrested.

• Caller states that you have won the lottery or sweepstakes or can receive a loan or grant and have to prepay taxes or shipping fees in order to receive the funds or other prizes.

• You are contacted by a person supposedly representing a friend or family member who advises they have traveled out of town and got mugged, injured or arrested and need you to send money.

• You contacted someone online selling an item, and they request payment up front (typically via wire transfer or prepaid debit or gift card) with the promise to provide shipping/transportation details after the payment is received.

• You receive a bill in the mail from a credit card company that you did not open an account with-this could also be an indicator of identity theft.

• You receive a pop-up window on your computer telling you that there is something wrong with your computer and they can repair it remotely for a charge.

• You receive payment for a service or item that exceeds the sale price and are told to send the difference back to the purchaser via wire transfer or prepaid debit or gift cards.

• Romance scams are frauds that are initiated online and prey on vulnerable people. Criminals create fake online profiles and attempt to get victims emotionally invested, so the victim is comfortable sending money to them.

• You receive a call telling you that your social security number has been suspended. They may ask you to confirm your social security number and/or withdraw money from your bank account and obtain gift cards. Many of these calls spoof the Social Security Administration’s phone number so that it appears to be a legitimate call.

In the U.S., one in 10 adults will fall victim to a scam or fraud every year. In 2018, internet-enabled theft, fraud, and exploitation were responsible for a massive $2.7 billion in financial losses. In 2019 phishing attempts grew by 65%.

If you think you may have been the victim of a scam, report it to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office at (434) 542-5141.