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Sheriff’s office warns of rise in telephone scams

By Chris Sardelli

A rise in telephone scams has local authorities sending out an urgent warning to Lancaster County residents. 

The alert was sent out after deputies noticed an uptick in complaints from residents who have been affected by a wide variety of telephone scams, according to a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office press release. 

In one of those cases, a local woman told deputies she recently received a phone call from a Washington, D.C., area code number.  

The caller gave her a confirmation number and told her she was about to receive $7,000 from the U.S. government. All she had to do to claim the money, the caller said, was go to a local drug store or supermarket and send the caller $149.95 via a Green Dot MoneyPak.   

A Green Dot MoneyPak, is a prepaid reloadable debit card that can be used anywhere MasterCard or Visa debit cards are accepted worldwide. The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be on guard for a rising tide of scams involving their use because they are hard to track. 

The caller told the woman that once they received the $149.95 she would receive the $7,000 in her bank account. 

The unknown caller also requested the woman call them when she arrived at the store, give them the confirmation number, then remain on the phone with them when she went into the store and bought the Green Dot card, the release said.  

Deputies believe that as soon as money was loaded onto the debit card and the callers received the number, that money would be taken from the account. 

“If someone has the account number associated with the card, then they can drain all of the money that is on the account,” the release said. 

In this case, the woman realized it was a scam and reported it before she lost any money, the release said.

According to a separate sheriff’s office incident report, another victim wasn’t so lucky when he was scammed out of $950 earlier this month. 

The Lancaster man called deputies on June 4 to report a call he received from an unknown man with a Jamaican accent who said he won $2.5 million.

The caller said he worked with Eternity Bank of America and that all the victim had to do to receive his winnings was to purchase two Green Dot cards to pay a one percent tax on the money, the report said. 

The caller stayed on the phone while the victim went to a CVS and purchased two cards, one for $450 and one for $500, the report said. The victim then gave the caller the number from the back of the cards. 

When the victim reported the incident to deputies, the caller’s phone number was no longer working. An internet search of the number showed it was listed in Kingston, Jamaica. 

“Residents are reminded to not give their personal information, including bank accounts, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other information to anyone who solicits the information,” Sheriff Barry Faile said in the press release. “If someone calls and tells you that you have won a sweepstakes or another reward, it is probably a scam. 

“In other words, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Anyone who receives a call of this nature or any other scam should report it immediately to their local law enforcement agency. 

Residents who live in the city of Lancaster should call the Lancaster Police Department at (803) 283-1171, (803) 283-3313, or the LPD’s anonymous tip hotline at (803) 289-6040, while all other residents should contact the  Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office’s non-emergency line at (803) 283-4136.

Common telemarketing fraud schemes

The following are some of the most common scams that the FBI investigates and tips to help prevent you from being victimized. When you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud. Here are some warning signs of telemarketing fraud – what a caller may tell you:

– “You must act ‘now’ or the offer won’t be good.”

– “You’ve won a ‘free’ gift, vacation, or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges.

– “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.” You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.

– “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone.” The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.

– “You don’t need any written information about their company or their references.”

– “You can’t afford to miss this ‘high-profit, no-risk’ offer.”

If you hear these or similar “lines” from a telephone salesperson, just say “no thank you” and hang up the telephone.


Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416