Police warn of telephone, online scams

MORGANTOWN — Victims of scams rarely get their money back, area law enforcement officials said.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Morgantown Chief of Police Ed Preston said. “It’s an old adage, but still very relevant.”

He said in this day and age most scams are over the telephone, using computer software that spoofs or clones legitimate numbers and autodials.

Monongalia County Sheriff Perry Palmer said it only takes one or two victims to make a scammer’s day.

One of the more common scams involves the scammer telling a possible victim there is a warrant out for his or her arrest and he or she needs to load money on a pre-paid credit card.

“That’s not how warrants work,” Preston said.

Once a warrant is issued, there is no getting around being arrested. Typically warrants are delivered by hand, though Preston said sometimes a call will be made to the person or their lawyer telling them to turn themselves in, but there is never money involved.

Sometimes scammers use local news reports or other methods to get the name of real law enforcement officers to help sell their scam, Palmer said.

Other scammers pretend to represent the IRS and will inform whoever picks up the phone that they owe back taxes in an attempt to get personal information or money.

“The IRS doesn’t call,” Palmer said.

Correspondence from the IRS will come in the mail and will have an official letter head, he explained.

Posing as a grandchild in jail and in desperate need of bail money is a scam intended to take advantage of the elderly.

At the end of the day, both men said the best protection is to not give out personal information over the phone. Don’t give out money over the phone and if in doubt, do your homework.

If there’s a warrant out for your arrest, a quick call to the courts will verify that claim.

Palmer said the scammers rely on people acting on impulse and not investigating the claims made.

While most scams are done over the phone, there are still physical scams of which to be wary.

Preston warned of card readers taking credit card information and people playing the “change” game in a busy checkout line.

Palmer said a scam he’s encountered involves someone offering to pave a driveway on the cheap because they have leftover asphalt to get rid of. After taking payment, they’ll pave maybe a quarter of the driveway before going home for the day and never returning.

Victims should report any scams to the Federal Communications Commission and local law enforcement. Preston said his department’s webpage has a link to the report.

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