St. Albans police are warning area residents about a telephone scam that has cropped up in the city three times over the past few days.
Scammers are calling elderly residents pretending to be a grandchild in trouble. Sgt. James Agee of the St. Albans Police Department said the scammers typically tell the person on the other end of the phone that they are in jail and need money for bond.
Agee said one city resident was conned out of $16,000, while another was tricked into sending $2,500. A third elderly couple from Putnam County came to the St. Albans Police Department on Thursday to ask if their grandchild had been arrested after being called and told they needed to send money to bail the grandchild out of jail.
Agee said relatives are typically asked to wire money or to put money onto a prepaid credit card and provide the card number to the caller.
“Regarding the distress scam, if you receive such a call, you should verify the identity and location of the grandchild claiming to be in trouble,” Agee said. “You should hang up and call another family member who can confirm your grandchild’s whereabouts. Try calling your grandchild at the telephone number through which you normally reach him or her.
“Stay calm and avoid acting out of a sense of urgency,” Agee continued. Do not wire money unless you have verified with an independent third party that your grandchild is truly in trouble.”
Agee also said citizens should never give out personal information like bank account or credit card numbers over the phone.
Also Thursday, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned about a scam targeting Verizon Wireless customers. In that scam, Verizon customers typically receive a robocall or text message telling them they have received a $76 rebate or gift and asking them to visit an Internet site. Once there, they are asked to enter personal information.
“As we’ve seen before, scammers always look for new ways to get your personal information, and they tend to piggy back off the name of well-known companies to do so,” Morrisey said. “Legitimate companies will never send you a text message or a robocall directing you to a website that will ask for your Social Security number or bank account information to claim an offer or prize.”
Morrisey warned customers who receive such a text message to delete it, not to click on any links in the message and to review their bill carefully for suspicious charges.
Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of the scam can call the Attorney General’s office at 1-800-368-8808 to file a complaint. Complaints can also be filed online at www.wvago.gov.
Reach Rusty Marks at email@example.com, 304-348-1215 or follow @rusty_marks on Twitter.