West Virginia State Police are warning Barbour County residents to be wary of telephone scammers who are reportedly targeting the elderly, officers said Friday.
Police have received reports from at least three people in the Barbour County area who have answered calls from individuals who say the residents have won money, usually in a lottery or some type of giveaway.
Typically, scammers then ask for credit card or bank account information to supposedly deposit the money. Instead of giving the victim the money that's been promised, the scammer steals money from the victim's account or makes purchases with the victim's credit card.
State police say there are several warning signs to be on guard for when dealing with scammers.
"These calls usually come from strange numbers, most of the time from foreign countries," said 1st Sgt. G. E. Raikes with the Philippi detachment of the WVSP. "If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is."
It's not just the phone lines the scammers are using; sometimes a victim's mail can be targeted. People have called in with reports of suspicious money orders or giveaways that have similar characteristics to the phone scams.
Usually, there is a phone number on the order that is fake, is actually a fax number or is out of order, which is one indication of a scam, police say.
Similar scams occurred around the same time last year, with callers claiming to be FBI employees offering to install a new security system in their household.
"These things seem to pick up in the summer," said Chief Deputy Brett Carpenter with the Barbour County Sheriff's Office, "and the elderly seem to be one of the primary targets."
This telephone scam comes on the heels of a door-to-door scam reported in Randolph County, where two youths were selling tickets for a chicken dinner to benefit the Randolph County Humane Society. The tickets ended up being fake and the youths were in no way affiliated with the RCHS.
Police offered several tips members of the public can use to protect themselves from such scams.
- First, never give out your personal information, particularly bank account or credit card numbers, to unsubstantiated sources.
- Also, if you are suspicious of a particular call, visit or piece of mail, ask for contact information that will enable you to contact the person at a later date.
- Finally, report all suspicious activity to the police so that they can investigate the source.
The Philippi detachment of the WVSP may be reached at 304-457-1101, or contact the Barbour County Sheriff's Office at 304-457-2352.