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Stolle talks scams, identity theft, care when people seek money

BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE

COURTHOUSE – The top prosecutor in Virginia Beach this month delivered a clear warning about ongoing scams, many of which target senior citizens, and he offered advice for avoiding the tactics that aim to trick people out of their money.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle spoke during the First Precinct Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting held at the municipal center on Tuesday, May 5. 

He discussed scams perpetrated by people posing as authorities — court officials, healthcare workers, utility service providers — and even an especially unscrupulous flim flam involving loved ones in peril.

“Any time someone wants money from you, you need to be suspicious,” Stolle said. He said a swindle frequently reported by citizens is the so-called “jury duty” scam.

“It’s a convincing phone call,” Stolle said. “The scam has been a (caller posing as a) clerk’s office employees, but they’re also using deputies. … The caller ID will say sheriff’s office or something, and it will look real.”

Here’s the shot: the caller says you missed jury duty, but they suggest the warrant for doing such a thing can get smoothed over if you offer a credit card number.

“That’s not how that works,” Stolle said. “You’re going to have plenty of notification that you have jury duty. It’s not going to be something you miss. … What happens if you did miss jury duty, you’re going to get something in the mail.

“There’s no scenario where you can give out a credit card number and get out of trouble,” he added.

A caller might seek personal information, too, similar to other scams that can lead to identity theft.

“Never ever ever give out the information,” he said.

Citizens can call the court clerk’s office at (757) 385-4589 to double check whether they’ve missed jury duty, but Stolle said this isn’t the sort of thing that sneaks up on folks. If it appears to be a scam, court officials will refer people to the FBI at (757) 455-0100.

“This is happening every single day, every single day in Virginia Beach,” Stolle said regarding the scam. “It’s something that is next to impossible to trace where these calls are coming from.”

As The Independent News reported in April, law enforcement officials continue to warn citizens about the scam in which people pose as Sentara Home Care workers and try to get into a citizen’s house to steal valuables.

“Sentara does not send people out unannounced,” Stolle said.

Additionally, scammers sometimes pose as an IRS collector.

“The IRS will get their money, but they are not going to get their money by calling and getting your credit card number,” Stolle said.

Other scams involve people posing as Dominion Power workers. They, too, try to get in and get your stuff.

And then there’s the “grandparents” scam.

Stolle said a caller rings up someone and identifies themself as a relative or loved one in need of money right away.

The pitch, as Stolle relayed it, might go like this: “Oh, I’m in Barbados, and there’s a big understanding. … They’re not letting me go unless they get $2,000, and you wire the money down.”

Naturally, the scammer asks to keep their parents out of it.

The Independent News

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