Sheriff cautions residents to ‘be mindful’ of potential phone, mail scams

By Kevin Spradlin

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. said Friday that something that appears to be free isn’t always, well, free.

And that seems to go against America’s grain.

“We are a nation of people,” he said during a news conference in his downtown Rockingham office, that believe that “if it’s free, it’s for me.”

Sheriff James Clemmons Jr.

Sheriff James Clemmons Jr.

But there’s often a catch, Clemmons said, and “that thing you thought was free can cost you a whole lot.”

Welcome to the world of scams, a topic upon which Clemmons said people should remain vigilant in unsolicited phone calls or items in your roadside mailbox — no matter how personally addressed they appear to be. Though “I don’t know how or why,” the number of scam victims isn’t decreasing, Clemmons said.

Even when it seems too good to be true, “some people think that’s a way out” and hope for the best, Clemmons said.

Becoming a victim can be relatively easy, especially if it comes via the telephone.

If a call comes in and the voice on the other end of the line begins with “don’t hang up,” Clemmons said, “my advice is to hang up immediately.”

And under no circumstances whatsoever should you give out any personal information, even your name.

Clemmons cautioned that the perpetrators of such scams often operate in two-person teams. One person will call while another might visit the home. Call law enforcement, Clemmons urged. Whether contacted by phone or mail, residents also can contact the Better Business Bureau in Charlotte to verify a vendor’s legitimacy.

Through the mail or by email, people often are notified of false contest winnings. Clemmons said one way to avoid being a victim is to be sure, before following through, that you entered the contest in the first place. And do not — repeat, do not — send money.

“You gotta pay money to get money,” Clemmons asked rhetorically. “No.”

One scam sends a check to a residence. The man or woman takes the check to his or her bank and cashes it. If the bank doesn’t realize right away that it’s a phony, the bank comes after not the perpetrators but the individual who cashed the check, Clemmons said.

“Some of them have been unlucky enough to cash the checks,” Clemmons said, including at least one man in Richmond County who declined to talk with The Pee Dee Post about the incident.

Any information residents can forward to local law enforcement agencies, such as literature received in the mail or phone numbers captured by Caller ID, is helpful.

Clemmons cited common-sense steps to take with ordinary tasks such as grocery shopping. When shopping, take only the cards or cash you need — there’s no need to take your entire purse or wallet, he said. He cited an incident earlier this week at an Aldi grocery store in Charlotte in which a 72-year-old woman was attacked. The woman’s credit cards were received but not a ring inside the purse, according to published reports.

Clemmons also recommended shopping with friends or family whenever possible.




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