Local residents report being taken in by swindlers

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Johnson was one of the several deputies to take a report involving a scam in 2020.

According to statistics, more than $42 million has been lost due to scams during January and February of this year.

There are several types of scams, and topping the list is debt collection. Scammers pose as debt collectors to get their victims to pay for debts they don’t owe, or that have already been paid off.

Millions of dollars are lost, and millions of people fall victim to some type of scam annually.

Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault said people need to remember if something sounds too good to be true, it is.

“I’ve never heard of any legit situations where you have to pay money to win money,” said Chennault. “Sadly, people fall for it every day and will continue to do so.”

The primary delivery method for a scammer is by phone, and close to $12 million has been lost this year using that method.

Mail fraud is also a common scheme. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, high-risk mail includes notices of prizes, sweepstakes winnings, vacations and other valuable offers.

Phishing is another widespread scheme wherein a scammer impersonates a business or a person to trick them into giving out personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, or bank account information. The scammer may use fraudulent texts, emails, or websites.

According to scamwatch.gov, nearly $175,667,560 was lost in 2020 due to scams, and over $65 million involved investment scams.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office took a handful of reports in 2020 from people who were reportedly hoodwinked.

Tara Wilson received a call from someone who claimed to be with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The person said he was agent Charlie Hudson, and that Wilson was possibly involved with a crime in Texas.

Wilson said the "agent" told her she needed to withdraw $500 from her bank account because her Social Security number was going to be suspended. The man told Wilson to put the funds onto a Nike gift card. Wilson said she did so, and gave the person the card information. Deputies helped Wilson file a claim with the FBI Cyber Crime Division, and advised her to never send money to anyone claiming to be with the FBI, DEA, etc.

Billie Mills contacted the sheriff’s office after he was scammed by someone who claimed to work for Apple. Mills said he googled Apple Customer Care and called the number provided. A man told Mills he could fix the issues after his computer was registered, and that Mills needed to pay with a Google Play gift card for $200. Deputies contacted the number the scammer called from, and learned it was a text mail system.

In 2020, $11 million was lost with the in person delivery method. Zack Smith fell victim to the same method when he wrote a $4,800 check to the owner of roofing company. Smith filed a civil claim and a report with CCSO.

Chennault encourages people to get in touch with his office when they believe they’re being scammed.

“Don’t ever send money to someone without verifying them first, and if you need help from us, then we’ll do everything we can,” said Chennault.

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