Public urged to use caution after local agencies receive scam reports
Tuesday morning, 80-year-old James White, of Rolla, had won $2 million in the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes and $8,000 in unclaimed property. They were just 30 minutes away from his house ready to deliver his millions.
Too good to be true? Of course.
"It didn't take long for me to realize it was a scam," he said. However, he played along, listening to what they had to say.
The timing of these calls that White answered couldn't have come at a better time. White and his wife, Mary, were present Monday night at their neighborhood watch meeting, and the topic of that meeting was scams.
"Mr. White did a great job," said a sergeant with the Phelps County Sheriff's Department who led the neighborhood meeting. "By following the caller's directions he scammed the scammers."
The instructions included getting a cashier's check ready to send immediately for several thousand dollars in order to pay for taxes on his jackpot. He also was told to sell his car.
The scammers thought they had White hooked.
White took copious notes, writing down names and phone numbers — another good move according to the sheriff's department.
"They use cheap trac-phones and these pre-paid gift cards, both of which are non-traceable," said the sergeant. "And they prey on the elderly."
Phelps County Sheriff Rick Lisenbe told the Daily News that a day does not go by when his office does not receive a call about these phone scammers.
"Anytime a person receives a call or an email from someone claiming you’ve won money or a prize, and then asks you to send a payment or a money card in order to claim the money or prize .. if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. When in doubt contact your local law enforcement," Lisenbe said.
RPD warns people of scams
Recently the Rolla Police Department has been notified of several fraudulent scams, which were usually perpetrated by telephone. In these scams, people represent themselves as bill collectors for utilities, collectors for the IRS, lottery employees and bank employees — to name a few.
They may request that the victim purchase a pre-paid reloadable debit card (Green Dot or Money Pak as well as Visa, MasterCard, Vanilla Card, etc.) for the specific amount of the bill charge.
Depending on the type of scam, scammers may also threaten that the victim’s utilities will be shut off immediately or a citation will turn into a warrant if the victim does not do so.
The victim is then instructed to call the scammer back with the PIN (personal identification number) to that card.
Once the scammer has the PIN, that person is able to transfer the funds to any other credit card, which according to police, is essentially a convenient and untraceable method of transferring money.
Regarding banking scams, victims may receive a phone call from someone identifying themselves as a bank employee. This caller will often request personal information like dates of birth or PINs.
The caller may try to convince the victim that his or her debit card will be shut down if the victim doesn’t provide the personal information as requested.
When in doubt, people should look up the phone number of their bank or utility provider and verify whether they were the ones actually calling or not.
Juror phishing scam
The Phelps County prosecuting attorney's office recently notified the public that a number of district courts had reported in the last few days that people are being targeted by a juror phishing email.
The email asks recipients to provide personal identifiers, such as a Social Security number, date of birth or mother's maiden name, on an attached PDF form to be emailed back to the originator.
This scam differs from previous incidents in its use of EJuror as the source of the email and in its attempt to obtain personal identifiers.
The prosecutor's office is strongly advising people not to respond this email as it's a scam. According to the prosecutor's office, courts using the official eJuror system will never request that personal identification information be sent directly in an email response.
Requests by courts to complete a qualification questionnaire would be initiated by formal written correspondence, and instructions would be provided to the juror participant so that responses would be authenticated over a secure connection.
People who have received such a email should contact their local U.S. attorney's office.