Holiday scam warning
by Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office
November 23, 2011
ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING - The holidays are nearly here, but the telephone and Internet scams that proliferate this time of year have also arrived.
Sweetwater County Sheriff Rich Haskell said that his office has recently received reports of four different swindles circulating around the county.
The first is the "grant scam," which surfaced in the area in October, but is now apparently back. Callers tell people they are being awarded a grant from the United States government, usually in the amount of $7,000, that need not be paid back. "That’s when the hook is set," said Haskell. "The callers ask for personal and bank account information so that the funds from the fraudulent grant can supposedly be ‘deposited.’" Once the scammers have that information, they go after the funds in the account.
The Publisher’s Clearing House / Sweepstakes Winner swindle is also making the rounds. Prospective victims are contacted and told they have won a large amount of money, sometimes in the millions. They are informed by the caller that they must send a thousand dollars or so to cover "taxes" or "processing fees," at which time they will receive their winnings. In another variation, the victim receives a very official-looking check made out to them, which they are instructed to deposit. They are also instructed to mail or wire a considerable sum to cover the bogus "taxes" or "processing fees." The whole thing is a scam; there are no winnings, and the victim is out the funds sent.
A number of reports have been taken from people who received an email informing them that a significant amount of money is available to be deposited in their local bank account (in this instance Wells Fargo), but a problem has arisen with the deposit. The email goes on to request their account information in order to process the deposit. If the scammers are provided that information, they then have access to the funds in the account.
In yet another scam, callers claiming to be FBI agents or other law enforcement officers have been soliciting account information, claiming they need the information as part of a major investigation.
"Con artists involved in these schemes are particularly active this time of year because of the holidays," Haskell said. "They count on people, especially seniors, who would like to see their families have a nice Christmas. It’s particularly cruel, and we want to put people on alert."
The Sheriff’s Office outlined some basic principles to follow to avoid becoming a victim of scammers:
First and foremost, always use common sense. If you suspect something isn’t legitimate, you’re probably right. Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
Watch for high-pressure tactics. Scammers want your money right now. They don’t want to give you any time to think things over; if you are being pressured to decide immediately, decide "no."
Be especially suspicious of callers who insist that you wire funds. Wired money is like cash – once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Never provide personal or account information to someone you do not know, especially when it was they who initiated the call, not you.
Remember that no legitimate lottery or sweepstakes ever asks for money up front for any "expenses" or "fees."
Officials recommend a visit to the FBI’s "New E-Scams and Warnings" web page at www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams as an excellent source of information.