Numbers strength combats fraud

Jan. 10, 2014 @ 07:22 PM

Henderson police are recommending taking diligent action against potential scams or frauds.

One of the best responses is a Community Watch movement.

Community Watch groups are active in many neighborhoods in and around the city, and according to Lt. Christopher Ball, they are about more than watching out for a crime on the street.

They are about keeping abreast and paying attention to local trends, the news and word from neighbors informing each other.

“Our crime prevention officers are very active with Community Watch meetings,” Ball said.

Ball and Det. John Hammond, whose focus is on fraud and scam crimes, also recommended regular checkups of the state attorney general website that tracks scam activity.

“The attorney general website is a good place to visit because they keep an up-to-date database tracking trends,” Hammond said.

“That’s where you can read up on some of the latest door-to-door scams,” Ball said. “One thing for residents in the city to remember on that is the city requires a door-to-door sales permit. You can verify a sales person’s identity with the city before dealing with them.”

In the wintertime, for instance, a scam targeting elderly grandparents has been recurrent in recent years: calling with stories about younger relatives, grandchildren in particular, being stranded somewhere and needing money right away — in jail in a foreign country even.

The focus in on pressuring the elderly into wiring cash immediately.

“The criminals are getting smarter year by year,” Hammond said. “They tie into businesses through 1-800 numbers to look legitimate. In essence you are dealing with criminals who are not even in the U.S. They may be in Canada or Nigeria.

“It is very, very difficult for local law enforcement to follow up on loss complaints,” Hammond added.

Investigations discover roadblocks when tracing funds that have been transferred and lost electronically, “because of the nature of the beast.”

That increasing sophistication is an added reason for neighbors protecting against loss organizing through community watch groups, Ball said.

“Another thing that everyone should do is closely monitor their purchases,” Ball said. “Sometimes, the debit card agency gives you just a couple days to dispute fraudulent purchases.”

Another group to be aware of, with their phone number close by, is Crime Stoppers. Anyone with knowledge of scammers, including local bogus check forgers, can earn rewards of up to $2,000.

Ball said much of the local fraud activity involves criminals getting a hold of personal financial information, including current and old checks. The routing and account numbers can be used.

“A lot of these scams are tied in to identity theft,” Ball said. “Crime Stoppers is one way we can follow up on these things,” Ball said.

Other scams to watch as weather turns warmer is false home or landscaping improvement schemes, taking money and not rendering the promised service.

The offer to do repairs is one instance for checking up on any permits they should have, Ball said.

The Crime Stoppers number is (252) 492-1925, and information can be left online at hvcrimestoppers.com.

Community Watch law enforcement coordinators can be reached at (252) 431-6061 for Lt. Irvin Robinson of the Henderson police, and (252) 738-2200 for Sgt. Lloyd Watkins at the Vance County Sheriff’s Office.

Community local and county-chapter watch meetings are a common happening listed in The Dispatch upcoming events calendar on Page A2 daily.

 

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.