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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Officials caution citizens to watch for phone and mail scams

Officials caution citizens to watch for phone and mail scams

Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre and Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle are urging residents to be cautious about potential scams that may present itself in the form of phone calls, mail or even email.

“Our citizens are targeted by scam artists all year round, but the holiday season is when we typically see scammers become more active,” said Sheriff Webre. “Regardless of the time of year, citizens should always be on guard. You don’t want to become the next victim.”

Last month, several citizens received a check in the mail along with a letter stating they had won a drawing for a cash prize.

The letter instructed the recipients to deposit the check, stating the check was to help pay for a “processing fee” for the prize. Not only would the recipient be required to pay monies in addition to the amount on the check, but had they deposited the checks, they would have soon learned the checks were invalid.

Obviously, the cash prize was fake as well.

Throughout this year, the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office has received several reports from citizens who received phone calls from someone claiming to be from the IRS, stating that payment was due on back taxes. The caller even threatened that law enforcement would immediately come to arrest them if payment was not made immediately.

In another case, a citizen was told he was owed several thousand dollars in back taxes, but he needed to pay a processing fee by putting several hundred dollars on a gift card.

“If any government or law enforcement agency asks you to wire money ‘immediately’ or give personal information for any reason, you should definitely be suspicious,” said Sheriff Craig Webre. “While there are certainly circumstances in which failure to pay fees or fines could result in an arrest warrant being issued, it is likely that you will be well aware of the situation. Through our proactive efforts, our office would contact you well in advance to remind you of payment being due, and you would have several options to pay. If the only option you are presented with is to pay using a pre-paid debit card or any type of gift card, it is an obvious sign of a scam.”

Sheriff Webre says these are also signs of a scam:

- You are told to pay taxes, fees, or shipping charges for a larger sum of money or luxury prize.

- You are told to send payment immediately or suffer some consequence.

- You are told not to call any number other than the one provided.

- You are not familiar with the caller, the company name, or they refuse to tell you.

- You are contacted by an unknown caller, but the caller I.D. shows your information or that of a friend or relative.

- The caller asks for sensitive account or personal information.

- The caller is rude or uses offensive or vulgar language.

If you experience any of these signs, report the incident to the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office or your local law enforcement agency. If you believe the call or mail to be legitimate, you can contact the company yourself with contact information you know to be valid and verify the call or mail correspondence.

“Thankfully, more and more people are recognizing the signs of scams, preventing themselves from being victimized,” said Sheriff Webre. “We encourage you to speak with your entire family, especially any elderly relatives, and ensure they recognize the signs of scam. The bottom line is to use common sense and good practices such as never giving personal or financial information on an incoming call.”

Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle also urged citizens to be vigilant.

“We urge citizens to always be vigilant in guarding their personal information,” he said. “As the holiday season approaches, scams seem to increase and we urge people to be aware and be careful when making transactions over the telephone or through the mail.”