BY DARREN CAMPBELL

We have all received one of these calls: “Good afternoon, we are trying to reach you regarding your car’s extended warranty” or “ I am Agent Jones with a warrant for your arrest, but I am willing to assist you if you can send cash or gift cards to the following address.”

In the past week, the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office worked on identity theft and financial fraud investigations involving victims from North Carolina to California. One of the investigations uncovered a nationwide scam, leading to the arrest of a suspect in Florida. Our detectives’ quick actions resulted in the recovery of $65,000 scammed from victims locally and in two additional states. I am happy to report that this money will be returned to the victims.

Scams and identity theft are big business for the criminals and leave big heartaches for the victims. The two most commonly reported scams involve individuals posing as law enforcement officers and individuals claiming you have won a prize. We have had several calls to our office about a person claiming to be one of our deputies, even going as far as to use two of our supervisors’ names in the call. The story generally ends with the caller stating that there are outstanding arrest warrants or a civil action against the victim. These scammers tell the victim that the warrants or civil action will be dropped if they send cash or gift cards or wire money directly. Please note that the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office will never ask you to use a gift card to pay a fee or fine, nor do we ask for money to drop an arrest warrant. Additionally, the Internal Revenue Service will never call you and tell you to send money or gift cards.

The other common scam involves the caller telling the victim they have won some monetary prize and need to send money to pay the taxes on the prize winnings and other “collaterals” in order to receive the entire prize amount. After the victim sends the money, they are asked in a follow-up call to provide and verify the banking account information. When the victim does this, they open the door to the scammers to take additional monies from the victim’s banking account.

The criminals learn from their mistakes and evolve in their tactics. There is a relatively new scam related to COVID-19. The caller claims to be able to provide shots to the victim by “pre-registering” the victim while asking for name, address, date of birth, and social security number to “verify they have called the correct person.” Giving out this type of personal information gives criminals an abundance of ways to steal your hard earned money and open up additional accounts, which will ruin your credit.

If an unknown caller asks you to send gift cards for a debt owed, prevent an arrest, bail someone out of jail, etc., it is a scam! Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is!

Due to the majority of scam victims being older adults, the children and family members of older adults must talk with these individuals about these types of scams and schemes. Education is key to preventing these types of crimes. Monitor your credit and banking transactions, and encourage your older family members to do the same thing. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. I encourage each of you to get a copy of your credit report and review it. By utilizing these outlets, you can ensure the accuracy and validity of your finances. It will also enable you to learn about any new accounts, loans, or other financial activity which may have occurred without your knowledge.

If your church group, community group, civic club, or other organization would like to schedule a presentation on this topic, the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit has you covered. These dedicated detectives investigate these scams and schemes daily and have a very informative presentation they can share. If have you any additional questions about scams or any other law enforcement questions, please email me at decampbell@co.iredell.nc.us or call me at 704-878-3180.

Darren Campbell is the Iredell County sheriff.

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