• 59°

Sheriff’s Office warns of scam activities

By J.R. TIDWELL / Editor

Sheriff John Shearon of the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office wants to increase awareness of scam activities that he has seen target residents in Chilton County in the hopes of decreasing the number of victims who fall prey to these schemes.

Shearon said throughout his years as sheriff he has been made aware of many different ways that scammers invent to try and “separate people from their money.”

“This goes on all the dang time about people with scams,” he said. “Every time you think you have heard the latest one, something else comes along and blows it out of the water.”

He listed several examples of schemes people use to try to hoodwink victims into sending them money.

“Eight months ago, I had this couple come in,” he said. “They had a young daughter with them. The mom was in tears. I asked her what was wrong. She broke down and started crying. She said that someone had called and told them that Judge (Bobby) Martin had issued a bench warrant for their daughter, and that Shannon Brown had sent the warrant around to the Sheriff’s Office to be served. They said if she didn’t want her daughter arrested, they needed to send in $750. She did.”

In cases where people on the phone threaten potential legal action, there is always a way to verify whether or not the information is true and accurate. However, these scammers try to use tactics to keep people from thinking about these options.

“The scammers are playing on people’s emotions, especially with people’s kids or grandkids,” Shearon said. “(I had a man) come in here about a month ago. Someone called and told him his daughter was involved in a very bad accident. They said she needed surgery, and he’d have to send $4,000. He was on his way to go get it to pay that. She was fine. Thank goodness he came to see me. Someone in our office was able to tell him not to fall for it.

“Or they will tell people someone was in an accident and they had a warrant on them at the time. They’ll tell them they have to pay this amount of money to get them out (of jail).”

Shearon said anyone questioning whether or not they have some kind of legal issue with the Sheriff’s Office may call and verify said information.

However, he also said that those who are in legitimate legal trouble and have a warrant out for their arrest are very unlikely to be unware of the situation.

“If we are serving a warrant, we don’t call people and tell them they have a warrant,” he said. “We are usually knocking on your door, picking you up and putting you in jail. We aren’t trying to get money out of you, that’s not how it works. If you have gotten to the point where we have issued a warrant for you, you have gone past the point of working with you. A lot of people have never been in trouble with the law and don’t know the process, so they are scared and don’t know.”

Shearon said these scammers will give correct information, which is easily available online or by other means to anyone, to make their stories sound more convincing.

“They will throw out the right names from your local area to sound more believable and make people think there is something to it,” he said. “They are sucking you into their scam is what they are trying to do and make it seem more real. People need to call and verify this stuff.”

Scammers often try to prey on the elderly or those of altered mental status.

Shearon also gave examples of callers telling people they have won money through Publishers Clearing House or won a car or something like that, and to receive the prize, they first have to wire funds to cover the taxes.

“They will tell them to go to a store and purchase a money card and load it,” he said. “Once you give them that number, they suck that money off and they’re gone. In my career, I’ve seen cases where scammers went back to the same person two more times. They might tell them they’ve won something else like a car, and they have to pay the taxes to get it. They are pretty much untraceable, and smaller local agencies don’t have the ability to track them.”

Other examples include a caller telling you that you are late on your taxes or have not paid them or someone phoning and saying you have missed jury duty and have to come to some address and pay some amount of money to avoid an arrest warrant.

“You get those all the time,” Shearon said of the taxes scam. “Again, they try to prey on the elderly who might just not know. The IRS deals with registered letters and things like that. They are not going to be calling you and begging you for money. That’s not how things work.”

Shearon gave a few tips and pieces of advice on how to spot a scam and handle the situation.

“Always be very careful about verifying everything that you do before you send anybody anything,” he said. “Don’t give out any personal information, and definitely don’t send them any money. A lot of them will try to get your bank account number or social security number out of you just to be able to screw you over.

“If it sounds too good to be true, most of the time it is. Verify everything that has being said. If you start calling a scammers bluff a lot of times they will become angry. Just hang up on them. You pay that phone bill, and you don’t owe them anything. They are calling and harassing you. Hang up on them. Hang up and call those people involved yourself and you will be able to verify whether or not anything has actually happened. If your are in actual legitimate legal trouble, you are more than likely going to know about it.”