Community warned to be wary of phone scams

Date Published: 
May 5, 2017

Local law-enforcement officials this week reminded residents to stay wary, as the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office has been informed of numerous fictitious calls being made in the county, supposedly on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, and several other phone scams have been reported in the area recently.

According to the Sheriff’s office, “The scammer claims the intended victim missed jury duty and a warrant for his or her arrest has been issued by the courts. In order to avoid arrest, the scammer demands the intended victim pay a sum of money.”

Deputies will never solicit citizens by telephone or email to collect funds, fines or fees, they emphasized. Additionally, contact any by the sheriff’s office will be made in person whenever subpoenas or other court-related documents must be delivered to citizens.

While official government entities are often the façade used by scammers to get consumers to provide personal information, sometimes the hook for a phone scam has a more personal angle.

Hocker’s Super Center posted on their Facebook account on Tuesday, May 2, to warn people of a scam allegedly invoking Emily Hocker’s name.

“We have been contacted by several of our friends and loyal customers that there is currently a scam via phone,” they stated. “They are saying they are Emily Hocker. THIS IS A SCAM!!!! If you have received this call and have any information that would be useful for authorities, please let us know! 537-1788.”

Ocean View Police Sgt. Rhys Bradshaw said people should be wary of a variety of scams — including calls made by persons falsely representing the Internal Revenue Service.

“I’ve had them call me before. They say, ‘This is so-and-so from the IRS. We’re going to put a warrant out for your arrest.’ ‘You didn’t pay your taxes. You’re being audited unless you send this amount of money.’

“A lot of times, they say go get an iTunes gift card and send it to this address… Let me tell you right now — the federal government does not work in iTunes gift cards. If the IRS needs to talk to you, they’re not going to call you. They will either send someone to your house, which is not very likely unless it’s something big, or they will send you a certified letter that you have to sign for, saying, ‘We need you to call us.’ They will even have a case number reference.”

Bradshaw said it’s unfortunate, but many people fall for such scams.

“Other scammers will call and say, ‘I’m so-and-so from such-and-such bank. Then they’ll start asking personal questions like, ‘What’s your Social Security number?’

“Your bank already knows that information. If someone starts calling to inquire about personal information — Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, date of birth — don’t give that information out. They’re phishing, because they can use that personal information to open bank accounts in your name and things like that.”

Bradshaw said you should try to collect information from the caller, such as their name and phone number; however, he said they will likely hang up.

“Unfortunately, with a lot of these scams, we can’t prosecute, because a lot of them come from overseas — Nigeria, Pakistan, places like that. There’s not a whole lot we can do, because just asking those questions isn’t a crime. Now, if you send them something, a crime was committed and we can try our best; but, ultimately, there’s not a whole lot we can do, because it is overseas.”

Bradshaw added that people should also be cautious when dealing with Craigslist and other online sale/rental sites. Rental scams have been increasingly common in the area in recent years, given the popularity of the beach communities. Bradshaw said to always follow up with the poster before sending money, to ensure legitimacy.

“Never buy something unless you see it. If you’re doing any kind of transaction, call the station and set up a time with us. We will be present with the two parties and will watch the exchange to make sure nothing happens.

“If it’s a car — I’m not a mechanic, I’m not going to make sure you’re not getting a lemon. But we will standby with you while you conduct the transaction.”

That being said, Bradshaw said it is important for citizens who receive those phone calls to provide any information that can to their local law-enforcement agency.