With tax return season arriving, officials with Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office are warning residents to be wary of scams attempting to gain personal information, such as social security numbers and bank account information.
According to Capt. Dale Kittles of GCSO, there is generally an increase in scams about this time of year when a large number of people receive sizable tax refunds. Kittles said that he has already handled a number of scam cases of several different varieties. Regardless of the type, Kittles said, there are some tell-tale signs that can help residents identify a scam.
“The number one thing is that if it seems too good to be true then it probably is,” Kittles said. “If someone has never entered a drawing, then they certainly can’t be winners. And if you receive something saying you’ve won some money, but need to send in money for taxes or processing, it’s more than likely a scam.”
Kittles ran into one such case on Thursday, when a 74-year-old woman on a fixed income was notified that she had won a $7.5 million prize in a sweepstakes. She was told that she had to pay $500 in taxes and processing fees by purchasing that amount of gift cards at her local Wal-Mart. She purchased the cards and provided the information from them to the scammer over the telephone. She was contacted again by a man identifying himself as George Lambert and told that she needed to send another $299 in the form of a money order to an address in Darlington, S.C. When she still did not receive any money she contacted law enforcement.
Kittles said he contacted investigators in Darlington and discovered that the address was legitimate, but that officials in Darlington indicated that the residence at the address was abandoned. Kittles also contacted the U.S. Postal Fraud Team, but they are swamped with thousands of such claims.
Kittles said residents need to cautious when dealing with any company, particularly ones that they have not dealt with previously.
“When people get these letters and phone calls they need to be cautious,” Kittles said. “They need to research companies that send them something when they have never dealt with them before. They can utilize the internet and the Better Business Bureau. The bottom line is they should never give out any information if they are not 100% sure that the company is legitimate.”