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Scams spike as weather grows warm

April 21, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

That's the belief of Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Greg Alton, who said Wednesday that several con artists are working the county by telephone and in person.

Alton said that in recent weeks and months deputies have received an increased amount of reports from county residents of attempted telemarketing scams. Alton said lottery-based scams are among the most popular.

Alton said the callers tell potential victims that they have won some type of lottery or contest and that to claim the prize they have to send money to a post office box. He said many of these scams originate in Canada, and that local investigators have been in touch with Canadian authorities as recently as last week.

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"The lottery thing, I can't emphasize enough, is a scam," Alton said. "Just say you're not interested and hang up the phone."

Last week, the sheriff's department issued a news release warning people of various scams. In that release, the department said it has received several inquiries about donation requests from an organization called the National Organization of Deputy Sheriffs of Keedysville, Md.

The county sheriff's department said it does not solicit money and is not affiliated with the group.

Alton said he did not have additional information on those reports available for release.

Alton said the number of scams usually spikes during warm-weather months. He said groups of roving scam artists - generally from Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia - are known for approaching homeowners in the area with offers of doing roofing or paving work at a discount rate.

Alton said the groups typically start the work, then demand part or all of the payment for the project and do not come back to the residence, or they break into the residence while the owner is distracted.

He said older residents often are the targets of these scams.

"A lot of elderly people tend to keep large sums of money in their homes, and these groups know that," Alton said.

Alton gave the following advice to those who believe they have been targeted:

n Use common sense.

n Do not give personal information to unknown telephone callers.

n Make sure any company doing work at your home is reputable, licensed and has existing ties to the community.

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