Sheriff Gary Cutler says the Hays County Sheriff’s Office has been responding to several reports of scams in the recent days. This week a citizen received a call from a local 512 number. The caller identified themselves as an employee of the Sheriff’s Office using a real employees name. Upon call back, the voice mail answers as “Hays County Sheriff’s Department Warrant and Citation Division”.
Scammers often obtain names from staff directories and pose as those employees while soliciting money in the form of cash, gift cards, or other payments. Scammers will “spoof” the phone number presented on caller ID and make it appear the call is coming from a legitimate business; however, recent scam calls have been coming from a 737 area code. 737 is a new area code in the San Marcos area, but all of Hays County Sheriff’s Office numbers have a 512 area code.
The Hays County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone: No legitimate business will ever request/demand payment by gift card. If anyone requests payment by gift card, hang up on them and block the number from future contact.
Found on the consumer.ftc.gov website, they say: “Gift cards are a popular and convenient way to give someone a gift. They’re also a popular way for scammers to steal money from you. That’s because gift cards are like cash: if you buy a gift card and someone uses it, you probably cannot get your money back. Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer.”
The Hays County Sheriff’s Office never calls to request payment over the phone for any reason. If you are not sure about a call, hang up and call the agency back and speak with a representative at 512-393-7896.
Below are 10 tips by the Federal Trade Commission on how to avoid common scams.
1. Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.
2. Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
3. Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
4. Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.
5. Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.
6. Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.
7. Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
8. Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.
9. Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.
10. Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.