If someone calls you and says you've won a big prize, but to claim your prize, you have to send the caller some money, that's a scam.
If you get a letter saying you’ve won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, but to collect your prize, you need to deposit a check and then wire some money to pay for fees or taxes, that's a scam.
If someone calls from the IRS and says you owe back taxes and officers are going to come arrest you unless you send money right then, that's a scam.
Detective Jason Parker with the City of Lenoir Police Department says scams are on the rise and residents should be aware.
"We’re seeing all kinds of scams, but the most recent is the Publisher’s Clearing House scam, the IRS scams, and the Lottery scams," Parker said.
The basic format of almost every scam is the same. The scammers tell residents to send money or buy gift cards and give them the numbers. You always have to send money to get the prize or stop the police from coming to arrest you.
"Unfortunately, people are still falling victim to these scams," Parker said.
Parker said that IRS officials, lottery staff, or other government agents will never call and ask someone to send money over the phone. They especially will not ask people to send money via gift cards. Click here to read "How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door."
"Do not give someone your financial information over the phone," Parker said. "Do not give them gift cards. Do not give them bank account numbers or any other personal information."
Police Chief Brent Phelps said some local residents have reported scams where the caller claims to know the mayor or himself.
"When the victim questioned the scam, the scammer said, 'This is legitimate. We've talked with Mayor Gibbons and Chief Phelps. You can call them to confirm it,'" Phelps said. "More than likely, the scammers got our names from the website and hoped that by using our names, the resident would fall for the scam."
Phelps said the person didn't fall for the scam this time.
"But residents should be aware that scammers will use the names of people they know to try to convince them," Phelps said.
Scammers can also clone official phone numbers, so your caller ID might read "City of Lenoir" or "IRS." Although the caller ID may look official, the call could still be a scam. If something seems out of place, it's always better to hang up and call the agency back.
Another common scam is when criminals call and say that someone is late on their power bill. The scammer will threaten to cut off the power unless the resident sends money right then. The scammers might also claim a grandparent or other relative will have their power shut off.
In that case, Parker said the person should hang up and call their power company directly to check on the account.
"Hang up and call the utility company yourself," Parker said. "If the account is late, you can pay the bill then."
Other common scams include:
- Payment Processor or “Money Mule” Scam
- “Grandma/Grandpa, It’s Me!”
- Sweetheart Scams (Internet and Telephone)
- Secret Shopper Scam
- Check Processing & Check Overpayment Scams
For more information about common scams visit the Telemarketing Scams page on the North Carolina Department of Justice website.