MARSHALL — Scam attempts have taken a lot of different forms over the years, Lyon County Sheriff Eric Wallen said. The trends often follow changing technology.
“Things progress. When I started in this job, it was phone calls,” Wallen said. As email, online sales and social media became more common, so did online scams.
But no matter the details of the scheme, the people running scams always want the same things — your personal information and money, Wallen told Hill Street Place residents on Wednesday.
Residents invited Wallen to be one of their monthly chautauqua speakers. He gave a talk on fraud prevention and ways to recognize common scams.
Reports of phone or online scams Lyon County seem to come in clusters from time to time, but it’s still an ongoing problem, Wallen said. Often, scam activity isn’t reported to law enforcement, he said. If a person doesn’t fall for a scam call, they may just hang up and never think to report it.
There are several different types of scams that have become well known, Wallen said. Over the last couple of years, scammers asking for some kind of payment in gift cards have become more common.
“A lot of times now, these people are asking you to go to Walmart or Target and buy gift cards,” he said. Once the victim gives the scammer the information from the back of the gift card, the scammer will use it to make purchases.
“It’s a quick way they can dispose of the cash,” Wallen said. And once a gift card has been used, “There’s no way to really track that.”
Wallen said area residents should also be alert for scammers who claim to be members of local law enforcement, demanding payment for a fine. The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office or local police departments will not call you and tell you to make a payment over the phone, Wallen said.
Wallen said law enforcement have received reports of scams where the scammers were pretending to be from the IRS.
“The IRS does not call anybody,” Wallen said. “They always start with some kind of written communication.”
Other common types of scams include calls from a person claiming to be a relative who is in jail and needs money, or emails from a person who claims they need help getting their money out of a foreign country.
Wallen said area residents can also take steps to protect their personal information, and avoid being the target of fraud or identity theft.
“Be careful who you tell about your personal lives,” especially on social media accounts, Wallen said. Other ways to help protect your identity include picking up your mail promptly, and shredding documents that have personal or financial information before throwing them away.
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