Julie Daughtry, a deputy with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, frequently deals with calls concerning scams via phone call, internet, dating websites, and social media.

Websites across the internet now have basic information on most people, which allows scammers to sound familiar with their intended targets. With the rising popularity of money-sharing apps such as Bitcoin, Green Dot, ApplePay, GooglePay, Venmo, and CashApp, scammers are also able to ask for money without being easily traced.

Scammers have also developed the technology to clone phone numbers to make an incoming call appear to be from a local or trusted source, perhaps even from local law enforcement.

Often, these scammers prey on older adults who may be more trusting and less familiar with technology. However, anyone can be at risk, and scammers are often very threatening in making their demands.

The BCSO has provided the following information to help citizens be aware of these potential scams and how to handle them.

Social Security/Local Law Enforcement
& U.S. Marshals

This type of scam is usually attempted by phone. The caller will state that your social security number has been compromised.

These calls may also accuse you of being tied to a crime, such as a car belonging to you or registered with your SSN being found out of state with drugs inside. The scammer will offer to clear your name if you provide them with money or gift cards.

The caller may even threaten to send U.S. Marshals to arrest you if you do not provide them with the money in the preferred method. They may go so far as to direct you to the nearest store at which you can purchase the type of gift card they are requesting.

You should pay close attention to the law enforcement agencies mentioned in this scam. For example, the local sheriff’s department and U.S. Marshals are two unaffiliated agencies, and the use of their names together is a sign that this is a scam.

You should always hang up on this type of call and contact your local law enforcement agency to verify the validity of the call. Law enforcement agencies will never ask for payment via a gift card. This is always a red flag.

A Call to Grandparents

Another recent phone scam that is particularly likely to be perpetrated against older adults involves a scammer pretending to be a grandchild who is hurt or in trouble.

The caller may address the target as “grandma” or “grandpa” and indicate they have been in a car accident or are otherwise hurt. They may then put another person on the line who claims to be law enforcement requesting money.

The recipient of these calls should hang up and contact both their grandchild and the local law enforcement agency that was identified on the call to verify the situation. Law enforcement will not ask for payment over the phone at the scene of an accident.

Facebook Marketplace

As buying and selling on Facebook Marketplace become more popular, scams there have also increased. Examples of scams on Marketplace include fraudulent business pages with listings of items that do not actually exist, offering rental properties that are not actually available, or listings for bargain priced items that require a down payment to “hold.”

If you plan to buy anything on Marketplace, make sure it is with a local seller, and make sure the item is really available before you pay for it.

You should never pay in advance for a Facebook Marketplace sale. If you do this, a scammer may then block you, and you will be left without the item and with no way to contact the seller. Other fraudulent sellers may take your payment and then repeatedly make excuses as to why they cannot meet you to complete the transaction.

In addition, you should not send payment information by email to any seller, and you should be wary of sending or receiving any payment online in a Marketplace transaction unless you know the other party.

The BCSO reminds citizens that a good rule of thumb is that if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If you are not sure about  an item or a transaction, it is best not to make the purchase.

Safe Place to Meet

Finally, if you are making a local transaction via Facebook or other online marketplace, the BCSO invites you to use their parking lot to safely complete the sale. The sheriff’s office is located at 17257 HWY 301 in Statesboro. There are security cameras and deputies available to assist if needed.

Bulloch County Sheriff's office
Bulloch Sheriff Noel Brown encourages citizens to use their parking lot for online purchase meetups Credit: Grice Connect

Facebook Messenger

Another common scam as of late is the cloning of Facebook profiles. Scammers may clone your page or that of one of your friends, steal the profile photo, and begin adding friends. The person will then begin sending messages to the friends on that list and may ask for information or money.

If you receive a message like this, call the friend in question to verify whether the message came from them or from a scammer. Do not respond to the suspicious message.

Key Tips from Sheriff Noel Brown and BCSO

Sheriff Noel Brown reminds citizens that being alert and aware of scammers is important. Preventing scams before they happen is the best way to protect yourself.

Here are some key takeaways from the BCSO. Please share them with the older adults in your life who may be more likely to be targets of these types of scams.

  • Never give payment via a gift card, app, or wire to someone you do not know, especially not over the phone.
  • If you are unsure of a caller or messenger’s true identity, stop communication with them and reach out directly to local law enforcement.
  • Law enforcement agencies will never call and threaten to arrest and lock you up if you do not pay them with a gift card over the phone.
  • Always check with local law enforcement agencies by either direct phone call or visiting their offices to verify any payments or warrants.
  • If an online deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Meet in a safe space to exchange payment and items from online purchases. Stay local.

For more information on any of these scams or for additional tips on how to handle them, please contact Julie Daughtry at the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office – (912) 764-8888.

Whitney Lavoie

Whitney Turner Lavoie is a Statesboro native and freelance writer/editor. She is an active volunteer with her children’s school PTO and Girl Scouts of America. Whitney previously worked in health communications...