The Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office is warning local residents about phone fraud being committed by a crime ring outside of the area.
Sgt. Eric Landing said calls demanding money to settle a debt have caused innocent victims to go to the sheriff’s office and turn themselves in. Sometimes they are crying and ashamed, even though they are innocent, Landing said.
Within the past couple of weeks, the number of calls being reported has doubled or tripled. It was steady all summer, he said.
“It’s very emotional. There are people, the elderly and people in general, who have bills. They have kids and they have bills and it sounds legitimate,” he said.
If victims cooperate and give the callers money – usually several hundred dollars — they will call back and ask for more money, he said. They might say there’s an additional fee or that there was difficulty processing and more money is required.
The victim is usually asked to pay with a Green Dot Visa card that can be purchased at Walmart. The cards can’t be traced, the deputy said.
“It is definitely the work of a crime ring, but not local. They are able to call from other countries, usually from South America, Africa, India, Russia, the Caribbean,” he said.
“If the victim says, ‘This doesn’t sound right. Is there somebody else I can talk to?’ they actually have people who act as supervisors and who get on the phone and say the person calling is telling the truth and you really do owe this amount of money,” Landing said.
“We want to get the word out. In recent weeks we’ve had reports of frauds. They are telling people they can get a low-interest loan to pay this bill and that they’re going to be in serious trouble,” Landing said.
Anybody contacted and asked for personal information, or to verify details, even a home address, should refuse, note the number and report it to the website www.ic3.gov. Federal agencies will investigate, Landing said.
Anyone who has given money to a suspicious caller should contact the sheriff’s office.
Reach Susan Canfora at firstname.lastname@example.org.