It may be summer, but that does not mean con-artists are taking a vacation from trying to victimize residents through a variety of bogus phone calls designed to cheat victims out of their money.
In recent weeks, the Goliad County Sheriff’s Office has received a number of calls from concerned residents about unsolicited telephone calls involving everything ranging from offers to “fix” credit information to family members being held in jail in Mexico to bogus sweepstakes contest cons. All of the calls are fake, and Goliad County Sheriff Kirby Brumby is reminding residents to be
cautious and not fall victim to these scams.
In the past few weeks, several residents have reported receiving calls from a “credit repair” solicitor offering to improve their credit scores. Ironically, the scam artists were using technology to make it appear the calls were originating from Goliad county offices.
In those cases, the caller asked for personal credit card information to help upgrade credit ratings. In some cases, the caller also asked for such information as dates of birth, Social Security numbers or even bank account numbers.
“Obviously, anyone giving out this information is setting themselves up for identity theft,” Brumby said. “You should never give out such information over the phone, regardless of what the caller promises or claims. The fact that you are receiving an unsolicited call from someone you don’t know and have never done business with should be a huge red flag that it is a scam.”
Other cons have involved people, often elderly, getting a call from someone claiming to be a grandchild or distant relative who has been arrested in Mexico. They claim they need money wired to a certain location so they can bail out of jail.
“This is one that plays on the heart and emotions of the person receiving the call, but it is a heartless scam,” Brumby said. “In a recent case, the person receiving the call hung up and immediately called the family member who was supposed to be in a Mexican jail. That person was at home and fine.”
Another type of scam involves a call claiming the person has just won a major sweepstakes, and the caller needed to ask “a few questions” involing personal information to “verify” his or her identity.
The smart thing to do when getting such calls is to hang up immediately.
“Never, ever give out any personal information to someone you don’t know,” Brumby said. “Legitimate companies, and legitimate contests, never ask for personal information like this. This is nothing more than an effort to get you to disclose the personal information the con artist needs to steal your identity. You can easily end up with your bank accounts being drained and your credit damaged.”
Brumby also said such cases are difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute because most of the calls are coming from a foreign country, and are often routed through a series of otherwise legitimate telephone numbers. Often, like in the cases of calls that appear to have been coming from Goliad County offices, the legitimate owner of the phone number is completely unaware their number is being used.
Brumby also reminded residents not to fall for a caller’s claims they need to take immediate action to receive a contest award, claim a prize or take advantage of a special offer.
“If the offer or the prize is legitimate, the company or caller will not mind waiting until you can check them out,” Brumby said. “And, again, legitimate companies will not ask you for personal identification information. If this happens, the best thing to do is hang up immediately and call the sheriff’s office.”
Too often, people give away much of their personal information on social media sites such as Facebook, Brumby explained. The sheriff recommended limiting the personal information you post on such sites and to restrict the information to known friends and acquaintances.
“Con-artists are always looking for new ways to get people to part with their money or personal information,” Brumby said. “Always be cautious, don’t let them play on your emotions and don’t fall for the con. Anytime you have the slightest doubt, contact the sheriff’s office immediately.”