Don’t be taken in by callers who offer nothing but...SCAMMER-TIME

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By Becky Barnes

Residents barely get through one scam alert before another begins.
The best advice in any phone call, letter or door-to-door salesman is ‘if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.’


If you think the offer of $250,000 for your “small” investment of $2,500 is too good to be true, it probably is.
That was the conclusion of one 81-year-old Cynthiana woman who continues to be harassed by a caller who insists she is entitled to “a package.”
This is their deal: She is to bring her $2,500 cash to Walmart to meet up with a representative who will give her a UPS package.
The woman knew better than to give out any personal information -- no address, no Social Security or bank numbers. She also resides with her daughter, who has received subsequent calls that she has been able to just hang up on or tell them they are not interested.
Det. Alan Judy of the Cynthiana Police Department said within 10 minutes of receiving the report of the package scam, a second report was made about a woman receiving a mail scam.
Judy said the phone calls the woman received were from an 876 area code which originates in Jamaica.
AARP has a scammer alert to the Jamaica area code as well as 809, 284 and 649.
“If you do not have friends, relatives or business associates in Jamaica, there is probably a scammer on the other end of the line,” reads a statement in the AARP alert.
The scams are not isolated to Kentucky either.
New Hampshire’s assistant attorney general said that these callers are very persistent and in some cases become verbally abusive, threatening to harm victims if they do not send money.
According to AARP, approximately 30,000 calls are made from Jamaica into the United States each day.
Key to the scammers’ success is being able to convince the victim to keep quiet about the transaction or to move to another room if there seems to be background noise.
That’s exactly what happened in the Cynthiana woman’s call. They told her they could hear other people in the background and that she needed to go to another room so they could talk privately.
The family requested that no names be used because one of the statements made by the caller was that they had someone in the parking lot at Cynthiana’s Walmart.
The daughter said she receives a call from the same area code at least every other day and it’s been going on for a couple of months.
Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to these types of calls because they try to rush the individuals into something without talking to family members.
While the phone scams have carried through the winter, it’s also time now to start seeing contractor scams.
Not all contractors that go door-to-door soliciting business are fraudulent.  
Reputable contractors will leave their complete contact information, proof of insurance and any needed licensing, and will welcome you to do your research first.  
The Better Business Bureau has released some classic tactics used by potentially fraudulent traveling home repair workers:
•“I am doing work for your neighbors.” – If that’s true, they will offer those neighbors’ names and addresses.  If they cannot/will not, watch out. Verify it first.
•“Lurking.” Some homeowners have reported being approached by men driving slowly through neighborhoods, or getting out of trucks parked out front as if they were waiting for the homeowners to come out of the house to leave, get the mail, etc.
•Scare tactics.  Senior citizens in particular have reported contractors appearing unsolicited saying they “noticed” a problem that, if not fixed right away, will cause disastrous results. (“Your furnace will blow up,”  “Your roof will completely fall in,” etc.)
•“Pity” tales - “My wife just had surgery,”  “Our house just burned down,” etc. – Even if statements like these are true, it’s not a barometer to determine whether or not to hire a business. It’s also not professional for a contractor to use “tales of woe” to convince you to hire rather than his reputation, experience and work references.
•“I need most of the money right now for materials.” – Many established contractors have charge accounts at home supply stores, or arrangements in place with suppliers. Requiring more than half of the agreed upon amount up front should be viewed with caution. Demands for all or almost all the money before work begins should be refused (especially if there’s no written contract).
•“We can start right now.” They leave no time for you to read and sign paperwork, verify licensing/insurance/bonding, references, or get estimates. It may be tempting, but if the work remains unfinished or is shoddily done, you’d have to wait and spend more money to get another contractor to take care of it. Save the headache up front. Do your research.
If you ever feel threatened by an unsolicited worker on your property who will not leave or is acting in a manner that makes you uncomfortable, call either the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department at 234-7135 or the Cynthiana Police Department at 234-7100.