ANDERSON — Scammers are not only creative, persuasive and believable, they depend on honest people doing the right thing.
Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said several people have recently reported being victims of a jury duty or failure to answer a federal subpoena phone scam that has cost them hundreds – and in one case – thousands of dollars.
The latest twist, however, is the way people are being convinced that they have broken a law and are in serious trouble.
“Scammers are using officer names from law enforcement websites to add credibility to their story,” Mellinger said.
The Federal Trade Commission says it can be hard for people to recognize a scam through all the lies and tricks scammers use to create fear that a government agency is searching for an individual, benefits are at risk or the person has broken a law.
The agency says con artists use local names and agencies for two reasons. First, it is illegal for someone to lie about an affiliation or to impersonate someone and, second, you trust someone on the sheriff’s department or with a law enforcement agency.
“No matter how convincing their story — or their stationery — they’re lying,” the FTC says on its website.
A common trick used by scammers is spoofing, where a caller ID appears to be a local number, according to the agency. Internet technology is used by a con artist to disguise the area code making it look like the call is from an Anderson number, but they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
The caller claims to be an officer of the law and accuses an individual of skipping jury duty, according to the FTC. A fine is now due and if it isn’t paid, the person will be arrested.
“If you get a call like that, hang up,” the FTC states. “That’s not a real official calling.”
Another scam recently reported to the FTC includes individuals claiming to be from Medicare offering to provide a free DNA test to identify cancer or genetic diseases. Callers request the person confirm their Medicare and Social Security numbers along with other personal information.
“But the truth is, Medicare does not market DNA testing kits to the general public,” the FTC states.
Ploys used to get people to believe the jury or a federal subpoena scam can be someone who acts like a “good guy” and how the person has a clean record if they can just address the fine, the agency states. Exceptions are made for a quick payment, perhaps a credit card can’t be used, but reloadable cards can be accepted in special circumstances.
Sometimes a “bad guy” role is adopted by the caller who berates the individual for ignoring mail and they claim to be “holding an arrest warrant” until a payment is made, according to the agency.
“A few extra-greedy scammers told people the first reloadable card ‘didn’t go through’ and demanded a second payment,” FTC states.
In an age where an internet connection and telephones exist without wires and technology is constantly evolving, it can be easy for scammers to dupe honest people into believing the hard to imagine.
The National Center for State Courts says officials won’t call or email people demanding a payment for failing to show up for jury duty. If you question the validity of a call, the FTC recommends hanging up and calling the local courthouse or law enforcement for more information.
“Please do not fall for any of these types of scams,” Mellinger said. “No one, no one, no one is going to call and request fines be paid with a money card from a store.”