Scam seminar: ‘They’ll tell you anything to get to your pocketbook’

Sheriff’s Office captain paves path for senior safety

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

HAMLET — Mike Burns recalled a Richmond County man who received a letter from what appeared to be Publisher’s Clearing House. The letter indicated the man had won the third-place prize in the company’s most recent contest: $1.5 million.

The man received a check for $10,000 but was asked to send $6,000 back. Then the company would send the balance of the $1.5 million prize. The man deposited the check in his local bank account but luckily did not send the company any money.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com One senior said when she was contacted by what she thought was an attempt to obtain her personal information, "I talked real ugly to 'em. They didn't call back."

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
One senior said when she was contacted by what she thought was an attempt to obtain her personal information, “I talked real ugly to ’em. They didn’t call back.”

It was a scam. The $10,000 check was no good. The man would have been out 6,000 real dollars if he’d sent a check. Burns said if that happened to him, he’d suggest the company take the $6,000 from the $1.5 million.

“I ain’t gonna miss it,” Burns, a captain with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, told a group of 17 50-plus residents on Friday morning at the Hamlet Senior Center what he would have told the company. “If you wanna take a little extra, that’s fine.”

Burns himself once listed a camper for sale on a couple of popular websites. He received a call from a man in California who offered to sell it for $5,000 more than what Burns was asking. All Burns had to do was send the man $200 in advance. Instead, Burns showed his badge.

“It was a scam,” Burns said. “I know it was.”

Burns spent the better part of an hour talking with seniors about prescription pill abuse prevention, insurance fraud, home safety and scams over the phone and online. Burns first created the safety program at the request of Ron Mayo, who asked Burns to speak to a senior group at First Baptist Church in Hamlet. That initial session went so well Burns decided to expand the program. Friday’s presentation reached the last of the county’s three senior centers. He’s hopeful other senior groups will reach out to him to schedule a similar presentation. He can be reached by phone at 910-997-8283.

Burns said the idea is to be proactive instead of reactive. It’s not uncommon for the Sheriff’s Office to receive three to four calls a week from hoodwinked residents.

 

“It’s a big problem in our county,” Burns said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Capt. Mike Burns of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office spoke with seniors at the Hamlet Senior Center about avoiding scams.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Capt. Mike Burns of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office spoke with seniors at the Hamlet Senior Center about avoiding scams.

There are some basic truths to judge each perceived opportunity, Burns said.

* “Anybody who’s in business and they’re legit, they want you to check ’em out.”

* “You can afford to miss it. What it is is a high-risk, no-profit offer.”

Burns talked about telemarketing, Internet and IRS fraud and spoke of the difficulty in catching the people behind the schemes.

“Generally, they’re calling from a foreign country,” he said. “We have no way of tracing them. They know that.”

Over-the-phone scams have been around as long as the phone itself, Burns said. The caller tells the person on the other end of the line that it’s a time-sensitive situation, “you must act now.”

“They’re fast-talkin’,” he said, “and they don’t give you time to ask questions.”

These companies sometimes offer a free gift, vacation or other prize — with a catch: just pay for postage and handling in advance, or send money or provide your credit card or bank account information.

“They’ll tell you anything to get to your pocketbook,” Burns said.

By the time the victim realizes they’ve been had, their money’s long gone.

IRS-related scams are as numerous as there are seconds in a year, but there is some fundamental information people should know to prevent themselves from becoming a victim of a scam.

“The IRS will not call to demand immediate payment, nor will they call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill,” Burns said.

The IRS also doesn’t require anything to do with a prepaid credit card. Don’t give personal information over the phone, Burns said.

“If you pay taxes through the IRS, they’ve got your information. If they need to free your bank account, they can do it.”

Residents can verify if there’s an issue with the IRS by calling 800-829-1040, and they can report IRS-related schemes by calling 800-366-4484 or logging on to www.tigta.gov.

 

 

Filed in: Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety

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