Some new twists on the age-old problem of scam calls are turning up on Hampshire County phones — both cell and landline.
But, Sgt. J.R. Fletcher of the West Virginia State Police detachment in Romney says, it’s no worse than usual, just different.
“It never slowed down,” he said of the fradulent activity during the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the nation in March.
Fortunately, he said, nobody has approached the Romney detachment with accounts of losing any money.
Calls creeping up recently include:
• Automated calls appearing to come from Amazon that a high-value item, such as a new iPhone, has been charged to your account. It will be shipped the next day unless you follow the automated instructions.
However, if you hang up and check your Amazon account, you will find nothing has been charged.
• A live voice claiming to be from the Social Security Administration saying police are prepared to arrest you on fraud charges.
“I’ve been getting those calls,” said Romney resident Larry Carroll. “They’re absolute garbage.”
• Along those same lines, live callers are claiming to be part of the federal Department of Justice. Victims are directed into a phone menu that results in the callers attempting to gain personal identification information.
“Phone scams are an ugly and pervasive act of victimization,” said DOJ official Jessica Hart. “The scams being reported to our National Elder Fraud Hotline are especially heinous because they show the perpetrators are preying upon one of the most vulnerable segments of our society – the elderly.”
Fletcher said the only new wrinkle he has seen has been a caller volunteering to meet in person to accept a payment, theoretically to prove their legitimacy.
“Once you arrive at the location, they say they’re sorry, but they couldn’t make the meeting. Then they ask you to just email them the information off the cash card,” Fletcher explained.
Law enforcers have the same advice as always:
• If a call sounds suspicious or threatening, hang up.
• Legitimate agencies from the IRS to local police don’t make initial contact by phone.
• If the conversation gets to the point the caller suggests purchasing a cash card, it’s a scam.
• If you’re concerned, find the phone number for the agency or business apparently involved and call them yourself. Never follow the prompts on a suspicious call and never call back a phone number offered you.