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Scammers continue to target residents

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By Chris Sardelli

A stolen loan fee and a cell phone taken through an Internet auction site are two of the latest scams to affect county residents this month. 

In a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office incident report report filed Jan. 16, a 31-year-old Lancaster woman informed deputies of a possible Internet scam after she applied for a $3,000 loan from an online company. 

The victim said she spoke with a man who instructed her to send a MoneyGram for $298.86 to be used as a processing fee so she could get the loan. 

After sending the money Jan. 14, the victim said the man told the victim he wouldn’t approve the loan or refund the MoneyGram because she signed her name wrong, the report said. 

The woman stopped all of her bank accounts and then filed a report with the sheriff’s office for the stolen funds. 

In a separate sheriff’s office report filed the same day, a 36-year-old Indian Land woman also reported an Internet scam. 

The woman told deputies she sold a brand-new Blackberry cell phone Dec. 27 to a Florida woman on eBay, an online auction website, and received payment in an online account. 

The customer then wrote an e-mail to the victim on Jan. 2 stating the phone didn’t work, and asked to return the phone and be refunded her money. 

Working with eBay, the victim arranged for the phone to be returned and the funds were frozen. 

On Jan. 16, the victim received a package containing two Blackberry cases, but not the phone she sold to the woman, the report said. 

The victim said eBay representatives would refund her for the phone, but she should file a police report. 

Estimated value of the cell phone is $375. 

‘Happens all the time’

S.C. Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said whether it’s a caller saying you’ve won a prize or an e-mail with an authentic-looking check, there are always going to be scammers looking for your money or identity.

“An elderly woman in Barnwell recently received a call from a person claiming to be a representative of Medicaid,” Keel said in a recent SLED press release. “The caller then tried to get her personal information saying that she would get a new Medicaid card. Thankfully, the woman didn’t provide any information. Sadly however, there are numerous other examples throughout the country.”

Keel urges people to be wary of anyone calling, texting or e-mailing regarding an opportunity of money or prizes. 

“Never give out your personal information such as Social Security number, driver’s license or any financial information,” he said. “Also, warn your family and friends.”

Tips to avoid scammers are available from a several agencies including the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs, at www.consumer.sc.gov, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud.

Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Matt Shaw has seen a slight decrease in numbers of scams reported in the county, but said they remain a constant threat.

“We certainly still have them,” Shaw said. “It seemed like for awhile, it was one report every day, but we haven’t seen as many.”

But with the drop in reports, he has also seen an increase in people refusing to go along with scams and then informing authorities about the scammers.

“People are still getting suspicious e-mails or phone calls telling them to do something, but now they don’t do it and come report it to us instead,” Shaw said. “I can only hope that all the education out there about scams is affecting people and teaching them to report these things.”

When speaking with victims of scams, Shaw offers a common piece of advice.

“We always say, if it seems to good to be true, it is,” he said. “Such as, if you see a money order in the mail and someone wants you to cash it and send a portion somewhere else.”

He recommends people report suspicious offers or winnings as soon as they see them.

“It’s good people are being careful because most of these scams originate in a foreign country which makes investigation into it next to impossible and prosecution even further away from a possibility,” Shaw said. “Sending $500 to some guy in Nigeria doesn’t sound like a good idea, but it happens all the time.”

Shaw asks residents to report suspicious deals or offers to the sheriff’s office at (803) 283-4136.

 

 Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416