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Sheriff warns public of many scams


Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman (above left) and Det. Mark St. Clair (right) point to a scam letter which claimed to be from AT&T. However, the letter was bogus--it fraudulently asked for state and federal tax information.
(updated Apr. 15, 4 p.m.)

Sheriff says Alexander residents have
lost hundreds of thousands to scams

Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman and his deputies are warning the public of crooks who've scammed local residents out of thousands of dollars recently.

He told The Times that one scam involved a letter, supposedly from AT&T, which asked the recipient to send information on their Federal or State tax exempt status. However, such information would include sensitive personal information which scammers would use to steal the victim's identity. Obviously, the letter is fake and anyone who receives such a letter should disregard its demands and notify law enforcement.

Another scam involves online dating websites. People initiate conversations online with a potential friend or date. The scammer eventually asks for money, sometimes claiming to be a member of the Armed Forces who needs money to return stateside, or for other purposes. One Alexander resident was bilked out of over $100,000 in this manner by a person she met on an online dating website, believing she was sending money to a military man overseas.

Yet another scam has the victim being notified they are a "winner in the Canadian lottery." However, the scam artist asks the "winner" for fees or costs to cover shipping or customs or other bogus items. In fact, the "winner" is just the opposite; they will lose money if any is sent to the caller. Scam artists often ask for the "fees" to be paid with Green Dot money cards or other means which are difficult to trace.

Sometimes, the scammers claim to be from the IRS or the U.S. Treasury Department, making victims afraid to refuse giving information to the caller. Bowman said real contact from these agencies would come via U.S. Mail. In another twist, local residents have had their identities stolen. Crooks then filed fraudulent tax returns in the victims' names, hoping to score a big tax refund. The victims didn't know anything was wrong until they received the fraudulent tax returns in the mail.

Other scam artists claim to be law enforcement officers or court officials, saying a relative has been arrested and the caller needs to send Green Dot money cards or other funds to bail the relative out of jail. In reality, the caller's relative is not in jail and the person on the other end of the line is a crook.

"Be suspicious of anyone calling you who wants personal information," said Sheriff Bowman. "We recommend you don't give you any information. Hang up. Don't send any money."

Real winnings should not have any fees or charges associated with them, he added.

Other scams include "Irish Travelers," groups of con artists who purport to be door-to-door laborers and, unsolicited, offer to paint your home, repair your driveway, or sell cleaning products, meat, or other items. In Alexander County, it is a county ordinance that door-to-door sellers must obtain from the Sheriff a permit which allows them to legally go door-to-door for that purpose. Also, the sellers must present the permit to the homeowner to show they are legitimate. Sometimes, these "travelers" work with multiple people. For  instance, one will speak to the homeowner about repair work to be a distraction, while an accomplice asks to use a bathroom and really goes inside the home to steal cash, jewelry, or other valuables.

"Be careful who you let in your house. There have been a lot of thefts," said Detective Mark St. Clair of the Sheriff's Office.

Bowman estimated that 7 out of 10 of the door-to-door sellers either have a criminal background or have outstanding warrants for their arrest on other criminal charges.

Anyone who suspects a scam should notify law enforcement by calling the Alexander County Sheriff's Office at 828-632-1111.


Visitor Comments

Submitted By: joyce pierceSubmitted: 4/15/2015
people would rather be dishonest,than to work.

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