A 76-year-old Martinez man has become yet another victim of a common scam that begins with a phone call from a stranger.
In this case, the stranger falsely identified himself as Sgt. Wilson of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and threatened to have the man deported unless he followed the caller’s instructions.
According to the incident report from Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, the victim told deputies that he was instructed to purchase $4,500 in Target gift cards, which he did. He then received a text telling him he would need to pay an additional $4,000 or else risk someone from Homeland Security picking him up.
The man told deputies that he did give the caller the information from four of the nine gift cards he bought, totaling $2,000. When he received the text with a link to pay additional money, he felt something was wrong and contacted law enforcement.
Scams like this one are common and often target elderly individuals.
Major Steve Morris of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office listed a number of red flags that can indicat a likely scam.
“Many scams can be nipped in the bud right from the start. A telltale sign of a phone scam are those few moments of silence on the other end when you answer. That means that a computer center somewhere, possibly on the other side of the world, is trying to connect you to a real person. Hang up before they have the chance,” he said. “Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls and emails. Do not open emails from senders whose names you don’t recognize. Delete or block them and never click on a link or open an email attachment you don’t recognize. Resist the pressure to act quickly. Beware if the caller asks you to go somewhere to purchase gift cards and never give or send any personal information or wire information to unverified people. Trust your instincts and consult with trusted family and/or friends. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.”