Is a thief calling your next phone call? - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Is a thief calling your next phone call?

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SCOTT COUNTY, MO (KFVS) -

Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter said he wants people to be aware of scammers, so they're not the next victim.

The scammers tend to do two things on the telephone: they say you've won something, but you need to send money to cover the taxes, or tell you someone you know is in danger and you need to send money to help them.

Walter said they've already seen each of these cases in Scott County, and the victims lost more than $100,000.

But what he's worried about, are the threats.

"We get scams all the time, we get one or two a week, but this one is really scary because they went to threatening, and scare tactics, one lady said well I'll, I'll just have to move, she's that scared, and again, that disgusts me, that makes me mad, she shouldn't have to, she shouldn't have to live in fear," said Walter.

Walter said his office has seen an alarming increase in the number of telephone scams primarily targeting elderly persons.

One of the Scott County victims reported scammers calling her for over a year. The man on the phone first told her she won the lottery, which included a new car and a million dollars. The scammer told the victim to send money to cover processing fees and taxes.

Once she sent the money, the victim began receiving calls of other similar winnings.

When the victim later refused to send additional money, the caller made threats of violence.

The scammer said he/she was watching her home and following the victim.

Walter said scammers have impersonated FBI agents, telling the victim they need to be careful, they are dealing with dangerous people and should cooperate by sending money.

One victim changed her phone number to stop the calls. But, the scammers had a local business deliver a pizza to the victim's residence. Acting on instructions from the suspect/s the pizza delivery person handed his phone to the victim and the victim was told that there was no way they could hide from the scammers.

"It makes me mad that they take advantage and scare these people like that," said Walter.

A second elderly victim reported receiving a call from a person claiming to be her grandson. The scammers told the victim her grandson had been arrested in a different country and she needed to send $2000.00 in order to get him out of jail. The suspects gave the victim a telephone number that was supposed to be the United States Embassy. When the victim called the number she reached a person identified as a government agent who would assist in wiring the money and helping to get the grandson out of jail. Walter said the victim attempted to send the money, but an alert store clerk prevented the transaction from going through and authorities were contacted.

Authorities have tracked both telephone scams to Jamaica and Canada. Walter said one company has reported more than 30,000 calls from Jamaica to the U.S. each day.

Walter encouraged anyone who may receive similar calls to not give any personal information or send money until law enforcement verifies that the call is legitimate.

If you get a questionable call asking for money, first contact your local law enforcement.

"The problem is now their life savings is gone, and once it's gone and leaves the country, it's really, really, there's nothing anybody can do actually," said Walter.

Walter said the Sheriff's Office will help verify sources before anyone sends money. Walter suggested talking to elderly relatives so they don't become the next victim.

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