Scam season heats up

Authorities warn that warmer weather brings out con artists

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

April 18, 2008 - County residents beware -- 'tis the season of scams, and statistically, the rate at which these cons are attempted will only increase in the warmer weather months.

County residents have reported two such scams to Hopkins County sheriff's deputies, one perpetrated by telephone and promising a grant award, the other a letter con promising a vacation in the Bahamas and a mass of cash.

But such ploys are almost always attempts by the unscrupulous to bilk honest citizens of their hard earned cash, cautions Sheriff Butch Adams, who warns citizens to be wary of anyone offering unsolicited rewards for nothing.

Recently, a county resident reported to sheriff's officers that he'd received a phone call from someone claiming he'd won a grant award.

"He told the caller that he's got several cards, and named a few credit card companies off hand and asked which one did he want," Adams said Thursday.

There was a catch, of course. In order to obtain the $10,000 grant, the caller said, the recipient was required to provide credit card and bank information.

"When he was asked about his bank, he told him it was not of his business," Adams said. "The caller hung up and he hasn't heard anything else on it since."

Adams said the call was an obvious attempt to obtain the caller's bank and credit card numbers. Fortunately, in this case, the resident was able to forestall such efforts.

Similarly, a County Road 4700 resident reported receiving a letter from "Drew International Services Inc." of North Monticello, Ark., claiming the recipient had won a $33,975 prize and four-day Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas. It sounded too good to be true, and of course, it was.

The "notification" letter stated that the offer was a "consumer reward" from a "computer ballot drawing" from which the County Road 4700 resident's name had been selected. The letter included an "assistance check" for $3,975 "for processing fees." The remaining $30,000 was to be sent at a later time after the assistance check was "cashed" and the amount sent for the fees.

This, too, was ruled a scam and an attempt to obtain the recipient's information in order to access his bank account.

The letter also listed a phone number to contact one woman regarding further details, but it was signed by another woman who claimed to be the director of public relations for the Arkansas company.

Adams said this, too, turned out to be a false claim and an attempt to obtain the recipient's bank information so as to take money from his account.

He also warns residents to be wary of anyone offering to do asphalt work on their property, such as repaving a driveway. Scammers will often quote one amount for the job, then claim the charge was considerably more than originally agreed upon.

Adams said that while the sheriff's office has yet to receive any complaints this spring of asphalt scams, they typically do, and he wants to remind people ahead of time to be leery.

If agreeing to an offer to do asphalt work, officers recommend checking out the person's prior work through references, agreeing on a total fee (a written. signed document helps) and sticking to it.

As a general rule, residents should remember that generally "you don't get something for nothing," especially when it comes to big ticket items or monetary rewards. Be cautious, even skeptical, of such offers. When in doubt, get contact information and check a business out, or callarea law enforcement agencies and let officers check into potential scams.

And above all, don't give out personal information to unsolicited callers, persons or businesses. Doing so can be very costly.

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