WOOD COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – One local police department in our region is warning of scams resulting in victims losing tens of thousands of dollars.
In a release by the department, the Parkersburg Police Department has investigated numerous complaints of fraudulent schemes, which has resulted in victim losing tens of thousands of dollars.
The Parkersburg Police Department says they have dedicated hundreds of hours to investigate the crimes, which they say typically involve suspects being in foreign country making prosecutions nearly impossible.
They say there are three main types of scams:
- The suspect calls the victim and tells them they’ve won the lottery, Publisher’s Clearing House, a vehicle, or some other prize contest. The victim is then told they must pay taxes on the winnings before they can receive their prize. The victim is instructed to either perform wire transfers to the suspect or, increasingly more common, purchase gift cards where the victim scratches off the PIN for the card and either emails or texts photographs of the card information to the suspect.
- The suspect calls the victim and claims to be from a government agency like the IRS, FBI, or police department. The victim is advised that they either owe back taxes, have a warrant for their arrest and need to post their bond, or something similar, to scare the victim, causing them to think irrationally. The victim is then instructed to purchase gift cards while the suspect stays on the phone with them telling them which stores to go to, which cards to purchase, and what dollar amounts to put on the cards. The suspect will have the victim send them the gift card information while they are on the phone.
- The suspect calls the victim, pretending to be a family member who has been arrested and needs to post bail. The suspect will usually know the names of the victim’s immediate family members and again, instill fear in the victim, who begin thinking irrationally and agree to send the suspect’s the requested money. Again, the victims are instructed to either send wire transfers or purchase gift cards and send the card information.
- Suspects contact the victim, typically through social media or a dating website. Known as a “sweetheart scam” the victim believes they are involved in a romantic relationship with the suspect, whom they often never meet. Communication is usually done through text messages but occasionally, the victim does speak with the suspect over the phone. Face to face contact or video messaging is exceedingly rare.
The Parkersburg Police Department emphasizes that no agency, whether it is government, law enforcement, or lottery, will ask for any money up front, will not ask for information over the phone, and will never ask for gift cards.
They say if you receive a call or email from a company or individual making claims of prize winnings or asking for any money or personal information do not respond and do not speak with them.
Instead, call the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where you reside and inform the officer that you believe someone is attempting to scam you.
Officers can investigate the situation and verify if the call and/or email was reputable.
Lastly, they emphasize that if you do fall victim to a scam, be advised that most banks and/or credit card companies will NOT reimburse you for money lost as part of the scam.