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Sheriff issues warning of phone scam

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A plea for bulletproof vest donations is full of holes. According to Fulton County Sheriff Walter Dillinger, area residents have received several calls from scammers claiming to be members of the sheriff's department looking for money.

"I have had five or six people call me and they said, 'Walter, are you all raising money for the sheriff's department to get bullet proof vests?' I told them that is something we do not do. We can't raise money like that. Money for things like that would have to come out of our budget or a grant," Dillinger said.

According to Dillinger, people in the area are receiving solicitations over the phone from unknown individuals that are identifying themselves as deputies of the sheriff's department. The false deputies then ask potential victims for donations for the purpose of getting bulletproof vests for the department.

"They say they are deputy so-and-so, then that leads the people to believe it's Fulton County because that is where they live. I had one lady call and ask me how to send the money to us. I mentioned our deputies' names and she said it wasn't any of them; so some one is running a scam. I think we have even had a couple reports from Mammoth Spring," Dillinger said.

Salem Police Chief Al Roork said in situations such as the bulletproof vest scam, it is very difficult to identify an offender.

"It is almost impossible to track them down. Unless there are things in place prior to the call with the phone company. Another thing is, it is almost never local."

Often times these telephone scams originate from hundreds of miles away and across multiple police jurisdictions, according to Dillinger.

"In a (shopper type) paper back in the summer, an ad said you could put $1,000 up front and you could borrow $5,000 and this woman called them," Dillinger said. "Well, time went by and she kept calling them about her money and they would tell her, 'It's in the mail.' Finally she came to the sheriff's department with the ad. I called the paper and got the main people that placed the ad; they were out of New York. I found out they were just renting a motel room and calling from there doing all this. There is no telling how much money they got away with. This girl lost $1,000 that she really needed," Dillinger said.

According to Dillinger and Roork there are scams coming in and out of the county everyday, from check fraud to over seas inheritance scams.

"We are going to try and just educate the people. If someone gets a call about the sheriff's department doing something, they should call the sheriff's department directly to check if we are doing anything," he said.

Dillinger and Roork also pointed out the calls people are getting are from private numbers.

"Very rarely do we endorse any kind of telephone solicitation," Roork said.

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