Sheriff's Office Fraud Line reports thousands of calls in 2018

Southwest Florida residents are targeted every day by fraudsters posing as IRS agents, desperate grandchildren, online sweethearts, sweepstakes representatives, and menacing debt collectors. Unfortunately, financial crimes against seniors and millennials are on the rise nationwide as con artists successfully lure consumers into fraudulent schemes via the internet, telephone, U.S. mail,   and door-to-door solicitation.

 The Sheriff’s Office “fraud line” became the first local law enforcement agency in the nation to designate one specific telephone line as a central reporting place for consumers nearly 13 years ago. Each call to the fraud line is documented and then shared with Crime Prevention Specialists and Economic Crimes Detectives to help keep the community informed of current scams and frauds in hopes that others don’t fall victim. The fraud line also provides educational materials and guidance to victims of identity theft, credit card fraud, and other circulating scams.

 Since the inception of the fraud line, calls from seasonal and full-time residents have rapidly grown from just a few hundred calls to more than 5,200 in 2018.  “The number of calls to the fraud line confirms that citizens are eager to report fraudulent schemes to trained law enforcement officials in order to protect their identity and assets for both themselves and others,” said Sheriff Carmine Marceno. “These dangerous imposters are very skilled at persuading their victims to fall for their lies by using very believable excuses and explanations. You should never be afraid to hang up the phone, close the door or hit the delete button.”

Below are the top five (5) scams reported to the Sheriff’s Office Fraud line last year (2018):

  1. IRS Phone Scam
  2. Telephone Scams (Phishing calls, Grandparent scam, Lottery & Sweepstakes)
  3. Computer Hacking
  4. Email scams
  5. Utility Bill Scam

 Tips to help you stay ahead of thieves:

  1. Don’t believe your caller ID. Scammers use technology to manipulate numbers.
  2. Don’t deposit a check or wire transfer money back to someone you don’t know.
  3. Never pay taxes or shipping fees in order to claim a sweepstakes/lottery prize.
  4. Don’t allow anyone to remotely access your computer. Microsoft will not call you!

 Tell a trusted friend, neighbor or call law enforcement if you have been the victim of a scam or fraud.     To reach the fraud line call 258-3292, or file a complaint online at www.ic3.gov or www.ftc.gov.