Monday, May 23, 2022

It’s the season of giving, caring. It’s also prime time for scammers

Gift card scams happen in the Historic Triangle around the holidays so here's some advice from local law enforcement. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Unsplash)
Gift card scams happen in the Historic Triangle around the holidays so here’s some advice from local law enforcement. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Unsplash)

Christmas is almost here and although it will be different this year because of the coronavirus, many will still partake in the spirit of giving.

Sadly, scammers will also be in full force, taking advantage of people’s giving hearts and capitalizing on the woes created by the pandemic.

This is the part where you shake your head.

Law enforcement in the Historic Triangle are telling residents to be watchful.

The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook a warning to residents, saying they have received a few phone calls where scammers have attempted to get victims to provide money through gift cards.

The sheriff’s office noted the scammers seem to be targeting the older population in the area, and reminds residents reputable businesses will not request a money transfer using gift cards.

YPSO Capt. Jeff Kerr said this year the scams seem to be more prevalent than previous years. It happens all year long, but becomes more of a concern around the holiday season.

“It does occur and it is a concern of ours,” Kerr said. “We try put information out to the public about the scams, so people do not fall victim, especially the elderly.”

James City County Police Department spokeswoman Stephanie Williams said gift card scams are common in the area, too.

“Citizens should know that the IRS, Dominion Energy, Microsoft, Apple, Law enforcement agencies, court personnel and other legitimate businesses will NOT have you purchase a prepaid debit or gift card and provide the numbers over the phone or via email in order to fix a computer, avoid arrest, avoid utility cut-off, receive a stimulus check, receive a prize, buy a puppy or any other reason,” she wrote in an email. “Simply stated, if someone you don’t know requests that you purchase a gift card and provide the numbers off of the cards to them for any reason, it is a scam.”

Scammers also can send emails, text messages or messages via social media impersonating someone the resident might know such as a supervisor, co-worker, friend or family member, Williams noted.

The request can be anything from asking you to buy gift cards and provide them the numbers to sending money or paying a “fraudulent invoice,” she added.

“If you receive a request like this, reach out to the individual you believe is making the request by another means (a phone number known to you, a different email address, etc.) to verify the identity and validity of the request,” Williams wrote.

The Williamsburg Police Department provided the following pointers for residents to keep their wallets safe this season:

  • Do not give personal or financial information to any caller and do not provide such information for unsolicited emails or online messages.
  • Never pay money to win a prize or to enter sweepstakes.
  • Never wire money to a stranger.
  • Do not yield to high-pressure or emotional sales tactics. Hang up the phone.
  • Keep careful records of your bank or credit card statements. Check them for accuracy and shred them when you no longer need them.
  • Remember, no government agency will call you and demand payment by a gift card.

Williamsburg residents should contact the police if they believe they have been scammed. Neighborhood Resource Officers are also available to help in non-emergency situations. A map of with NRO contact information can be viewed here.

Other resources to help avoid a scam or report one can be found here, including websites and phone numbers provided by Williamsburg Police spokesman John Heilman.

WYDaily reporters Julia Marsigliano, Gabrielle Rente and Annnie Gallo contributed to this report.

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