STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BURNET — What if an attorney called and claimed a loved one was in jail and the only way to get them out was to send money over the phone with a pre-paid card?
The scenario is the latest phone call scam by unscrupulous fraudsters attempting to extract cash by illegal means, according to the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office.
“They frequently try to target elderly people, who are susceptible to fast talkers,” BCSO Capt. Tom Dillard said.
In January, investigators sent out an alert on the agency’s social media page after they received an uptick in complaints about these types of calls.
“This is just a general alert based upon the deputies talking to people who have called in about phone calls they have received,” BCSO Capt. Chris Jett said.
The “attorney claim” joins a list of phone scams making the rounds in Burnet County and beyond.
“I’ve seen a variation of this with the utility company. They claim they will shut your power off if you don’t pay,” Dillard said. “There’s the IRS version, where they claim they will arrest you if you don’t pay the money.”
Those receiving the calls should listen for a few “red flags.”
“Many of these scams originate overseas,” Dillard said. “The real red flag is if someone is asking you to do a Western Union, iTunes card, or any sort of instant money transfer.”
Unfortunately, if a transaction occurs, there is little law enforcement can do to retrieve a victim’s money.
“Once you give the other person on the line that (pre-paid card) number, they can transfer the funds,” he said. “That money is gone. It is difficult to track.”
Although some calls originated from foreign countries, the number used in the attorney scam appears to be from Florida.
During the recent ruse, a scammer not only asked the potential victim to add $8,000 to Home Depot gift cards, they also played the role of a “grandson” who needed the transaction to occur or they would remain incarcerated.
“That is not the way government agencies do business,” Dillard said. “My advice is to be very clear with who they’re talking to.
“If they think it’s a legitimate agency, hang up, look that agency up, and call them,” he added.