JOHNSON COUNTY (Dec. 1, 2015) - Local authorities are urging residents to be wary of scammers who try to take advantage of the giving spirit and tight budgets during the holiday season.
While Tuesday has become known as “Giving Tuesday,” Sheriff Doug Cox reminds residents to make sure they know who they are giving to.
“They just need to do their homework and not fall victim to these scam artists,” Cox said. “Because it’s heartbreaking when I see reports where people are losing their life savings to individuals who do not deserve their money.”
On Sunday, a Greenwood man received a call from a woman who said her name was Lisa Jones. Jones said she was collecting money on behalf of the “Indianapolis Sheriffs Department.” She said the money would be used to benefit abused children.
The would-be victim was immediately suspicious since the “Indianapolis Sheriffs Department” doesn’t exist.
“Because at this time of the year, unfortunately, these scam artists are trying to tug at the heartstrings,” Cox said.
Cox said scammers posing as charities not only hurt potential victims, but they also hinder collection efforts for legitimate fundraising efforts like the Fraternal Order of Police “Shop with a Cop” program.
“Collecting money for those agencies is becoming hard because people aren’t giving because of these types of scams going around,” Cox said.
Scammers also take advantage of tight holiday budgets with the tempting lure of quick, easy money.
Greenwood resident Patricia Young nearly fell victim to such a scam. Monday evening, she took a call from someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House.
“He said congratulations, you’ve won a million dollars and a car,” Young said.
The 75-year-old said woman she was skeptical of the caller, but followed his instructions far enough to make it to a Western Union counter at her local Walgreens store. She was prepared to send more than $900 the caller said was required to receive her winnings. Fortunately, a Walgreens employee had seen the scam before and told Young not to send the money.
“Well I kept thinking boy that money would be awful nice,” Young said. “But I thought If I get that and they bilk me out of a bunch of money then I really will be an unhappy camper.”
When Johnson County investigators called the number back, it showed the call originated from Jamaica.
“Don’t engage in conversation with these scam artists because they’re very good at what they do,” Cox said. When you hear things like you have to pay in order to win, that should be the first red flag. If they’re asking for your personal information, credit card, banking information, hang up the phone. Do not engage in conversations with them. If on the phone they’re wanting you to rush through this, that’s another red flag. Hang up on them immediately.”
Statistics show scams and fraud are on the increase. In 2014, the Johnson County Sheriffs Department received 166 fraud reports. As of December 1, 2015, that number was up to 218.