Sheriff's office issues scam warning

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Sheriff's office personnel were sounding the alarm Tuesday afternoon as a pair of scams circulated through Gregg County, including one where the fraudsters are impersonating GCSO Lt. Eddy Hope.

Hope was at work on the case himself after taking a call from one of the scammers' would-be victims, a resident who knew better than to trust the tricksters' line about paying off fines ASAP over the phone with a credit card. The swindlers had even taken the type to set up a spoof voicemail pretending to be the sheriff's office.

For one, Cpl. Josh Tubb said, “The Gregg County Sheriff's Office does not take credit cards.”

The department's spokesman hopes locals whose telephones or cells are targeted will take a moment, take a breath, take a step back and put some thought into what they're hearing. In some scams, the news is too good to be true; in others, if it sounds unbelievably bad, check the facts.

Beyond the typical scams that make the rounds, “We have encountered some scams during the past day or so that are kind of concerning,” Tubb said Tuesday afternoon. In addition to scammers pretending to be a sheriff's office lieutenant, “The second one is they're calling and saying they've seen online that your computer has been penetrated with spyware or some sort of other virus that leaves your sensitive material vulnerable. They're wanting to fix it for you: to verify it you have to send in a copy of your drivers license.”

How much? According to Tubb, those reporting the scams are being asked to pay as much as $1,250 for the “service,” but the scammers are quick to lower the cost (payable through an iTunes gift card) if they think they've set the hook.

Meanwhile, “We just got a report yesterday that the IRS scam is circulating again,” Tubb said, a trick where victims are threatened with fines and other consequences if they don't fork up alleged back taxes immediately – again, through iTunes or another prepaid card. Likewise, “We've got the Publisher's Clearing House scam,” asking victims for money to secure a prize.

Some scams take advantage of a person's fear, some of his or her excitement or greed. The holidays often bring an increase in fraud through phishing scams and other traps.

For victims' sakes, “We don't want them to act without sitting down to think about it,” Tubb said, considering whether an offer is too good to be true or a threat is outside the norm. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“With law enforcement and IRS scams, if you owe the IRS money you're going to know already from your tax return. Before you even think about paying any type of money, make sure you contact the IRS directly with a number you personally looked up.”

On the homefront, he added, call the sheriff's office at 903-236-8400 if the person on the other end of the line is collecting on behalf of the agency.

“If anyone is calling and claiming to be a member of the Gregg County Sheriff's Office and demanding money, that is automatically a scam,” Tubb said. “No law enforcement agency is going to conduct themselves with a bill collector.”