Tis the season to be jolly and give unto others, but also to take care to avoid being scammed by the Grinches who crawl out of their caves every holiday season to steal a bit of Christmas.
A Hawkins County resident told the county sheriff’s department last month that he had been swindled out of $10,000. The 61-year-old Church Hill man said he received a telephone call from a man who identified himself as a state official in Texas who told the victim his Social Security number was tied to some crimes in Texas and that authorities would be at his home in the morning to seize his bank accounts and property. He was told he could avoid that by getting prepaid Visa cards and giving the scammer the card information.
This wasn’t the only victim. On Nov. 13, a 66-year-old Rogersville woman said she had an issue with an online cash service and called what she thought was a legitimate number. A man gave her a code to enter into her computer to start a “refund claim,” but her computer came under remote control. When the woman asked what was going on the man reportedly told her not to worry, and “smoke a cigarette.” The woman became suspicious and turned her computer off.
On Nov. 12, a 78-year-old Bulls Gap man reported that he purchased a $125 gift card but never used it and decided to cash it in. He called a number he found online and spoke to a man who took his bank information to perform a refund. He was contacted by the man, who stated that $4,000 had accidentally been deposited in his account, and he was instructed to purchase eight $500 gift cards to pay back the excess funds. Although he didn’t fall for the scam, the victim lost his $125 gift card to the scammer.
According to consumer websites, scams to watch out for this holiday season include phishing scams that can take the form of bogus delivery confirmation requests seeking your information, or even a personalized letter to your child from Santa. Another capitalizes on the goodwill this time of year by asking you to make a donation to a charity that doesn’t actually exist. Verify the authenticity of any charity you’d like to make a contribution to by checking it out on a website like CharityNavigator.org.
UPS and FedEx trucks are everywhere dropping off boxes, many of which are promptly stolen. Especially when ordering something expensive, arrange for a delivery that requires your signature. Otherwise, track your order and know when to look out for it.
You’ll also see ads on various sites including social media, for items at prices that seem too good to be true. These are quite likely scams. Once you click an ad link and place an order, you’ll never hear from the site again. Worse yet, they may use the information you shared to empty your credit card account.
Only shop on reputable sites and remember to check the website address/URL before placing an order. Also ignore ads that offer a new iPhone or other item free of charge. Don’t accept them. And a tip when buying gift credit cards: Check to see if the activation code is exposed. If it is, a scammer has probably copied the information and will use the card after you purchase it.
Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson recently warned residents of scam artists calling county residents claiming to be him or one of his deputies and demanding money. Lawson said the callers tell their would-be victims that they have out-of-state warrants for their arrest for crimes they had committed in the past few months.
“These callers are requesting Social Security information and/or demanding bond payments be made by credit cards or money cards purchased at CVS and Walmart,” Lawson said. “Actions such as this are never conducted by any law enforcement agencies.”
Lawson said you should hang up on any such call but it’s better to never answer an unrecognized number. If you get such a call, the sheriff advises you report it to local law enforcement.