Avoiding scams

In all likelihood, fists were clenched and heads were shaken at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department a few days ago, when personnel there heard a local woman’s story about someone stealing thousands of dollars from her.

Most of the time, law enforcement officers, deputies and agents can spring into action upon learning of crimes against those they serve and protect. They can do something.

Their frustration about the local woman’s loss is that there is very little they can do about the crime.

Lt. Joseph Lamantia of the sheriff’s department explained the woman had been victimized by a telephone scammer. He called her, claiming to be a “Sgt. Referson,” and telling her she was in trouble with the law. She could get out of it by purchasing 10 Green Dot cash cards, putting $500 on each and providing him with the codes necessary to get the money.

She was to put the cards in an envelope and send it to the “Department of Treasury.”

The woman learned she had been scammed when she went to the sheriff’s department to check on the matter.

As Lamantia warned, law enforcement agencies don’t operate that way — ever.

If you get such a call — or one of the variations such as someone insisting a relative needs money to get out of jail — hang up.

Local law enforcement agencies can do little about such crimes, because the perpetrators often are in other countries.

Few police and sheriff’s departments have the technology to find the scammers, much less arrest them.

Uncle Sam may be able to help. Federal authorities do have the tools needed to hunt down at least some scammers — and make harsh-punishment examples of them to deter at least a few others.

Members of Congress, always on the alert for ways they can provide service to constituents, may want to think about having the departments of justice and homeland security launch such a campaign.


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