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Telephone Scams

Shelby County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) Issues Telephone Scam Warning

“Hang up and verify”

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is seeing a large increase in phone scams. Our goal is to educate the public about the existence of these scams and to help you understand how to recognize a scam to avoid becoming a victim.

A typical scam call begins with someone stating that they are from some organization (such as Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, IRS, Social Security, a Law Enforcement Agency, Publishers Clearing House, a Bank, etc). The scammers continue by saying that your computer/smartphone was hacked, you have a warrant out for your arrest, you won a prize, your social security number was stolen, you owe the IRS money, etc. This approach is being used to get you, as the victim, very emotional, either scared or excited, in hopes that you will lose judgment long enough for the scammers to complete their scheme. In many cases, the scammers will ask you to purchase some type of gift card. In other cases, the scammers will request bank account information and trick you by claiming they will use it to deposit money into your account for various reasons. A huge red flag in the scammer's plan is when they request you to purchase gift cards, and they demand that you stay on the phone throughout the entire process.

If you receive a possible scam phone call, remember to HANG UP and VERIFY. You should look up that organization’s true phone number and then call them to verify the information you were told.

If you wish to learn more, here are some further details about phone scams.

There are many other red flags during phone scams. Victims often recognize the red flags only after the fact, but during the phone calls, the scammers rely on the victims to be too scared or too excited to pay attention to the warning signs. People can prevent being scammed on the phone if they follow some of these guidelines. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Scammers will say you won money and prizes, but you will need to pay taxes, registration fees, shipping costs, etc. before you can receive your “winnings.” Everyone knows that there are sometimes taxes and fees associated from winning cash and prizes, however, in legitimate contests with legitimate winnings, these taxes and fees are paid after the prize has been received.

If the scammers claim to be from a law enforcement agency, the person receiving the call should ask for the name of the agency, then hang up the phone, look up the contact number for that agency or call their local law enforcement agency to check the legitimacy of the caller. Please remember this important fact -- legitimate law enforcement agencies will not request payment for fines to be paid over the phone, nor payments to be made using gift cards. If the scammer is claiming to be from organizations such as Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, etc., the person receiving the call should not give the caller any personal information over the phone. The safest thing to do is hang up the phone and then dial the actual phone number for that organization to see if the original call was legitimate.

Scammers will also claim to be from the IRS or the Social Security Office because they know most citizens are fearful of receiving calls from the IRS. The IRS and other federal government agencies conduct most of their notifications through the US Mail, so phone calls are extremely rare.

Most people believe they will never fall victim to scams like these but, unfortunately, we are seeing more and more victims of these scams each day. Our senior citizens are falling victim to these scams at a higher rate. Employees at retail stores, especially the stores that sell gift cards, can assist by asking questions if they see a senior citizen purchasing large amounts of gift cards while on their cell phones. We obviously can’t prevent a person from buying gift cards, but by asking questions and making them think about what they are doing, it may help them realize they are being scammed before it is too late. These scammers have no shame and will continue to take from each victim until that victim stops giving them money.

A majority of these scams are being committed by people from outside the United States. Another possible indicator that you can report to law enforcement is if the caller had a foreign accent.

In summary, if anyone calls and asks you for money, you should hang up, and then verify the information by looking up the real phone number to the organization they claimed to belong to, and then calling that organization. Remember this key action if you believe you are being scammed: HANG UP and then VERIFY.

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Last Published: Jul 28, 2021