Beware of scams

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Local residents need to protect accounts, identity

Bossier Parish law enforcement agencies are warning consumers of scams that are hitting pocketbooks hard.

In the wake of reports about locked accounts with WESLA Federal Credit Union, Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington also advises residents to follow protocol when it comes to an unsolicited phone call, text message or e-mail.

“Whether it’s a Medicare scam to take advantage of the elderly, a telemarketing scam to cheat people out of their money or phishing to gain someone’s identity, these types of criminal activities are becoming more prevalent in our society,” Whittington said.  “But the good news is that there are a few steps you can take in order to protect yourself.”

Those steps include being cautious with your identity and never giving out personal information, such as credit card or bank account numbers, to an unsolicited caller; resisting pressure to make a decision immediately on a pressure sales call; do not respond or click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail; and don’t pay for something just because you’ll get a “free gift.”

“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” Whittington said.

The Sheriff’s Office suggests monitoring your bank account and credit card accounts carefully for an extended period of time. Some scammers can take weeks or months before they use your information.

“If you feel you’ve been victimized, call your bank and credit card companies to explain what happened,” Whittington said. “The sooner you contact them, the more likely you will be reimbursed for any fraudulent charges on your accounts.”

Another scam that’s hitting the nation is targeting cellphone users. The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers of a phone scam dubbed the “473 Scam” or the “One-Ring Scam.”

According to the BBB, a large number of people throughout the United States have been receiving phone calls from a 473 area code located out of Grenada in the Caribbean. In the scam, a blast of robocalls are sent to cell phones, but the phones only ring once.

The scammers hope to spike people’s curiosity and have them dial the number back. In calling the number back, the victim of the scam could be charged $20 or more.

The 473 area code functions like a 1-900 number, charging callers $19.95 for an international call fee. The longer a person waits on the line, the more they are charged. Most of this money goes straight to the scammers.

Suspicious door-to-door salespeople peddling books and magazines caused the Bossier Parish Police Jury to step in. The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Department responded to 21 complaint calls in subdivisions across the parish, from Dec. 17 through Jan. 7, in reference to solicitors going door to door.

Residents are concerned when a salesperson couldn’t offer proof of who they are or who they work for. The Bossier Parish Police Jury dealt with this same issue last year, creating a peddler’s license.

However, officials found some of the solicitors carried false identification and had active warrants, primarily for misdemeanor offenses. Because of that, no more peddler’s licenses will be issued for the next 90 days, while the jury can establish a better process for examining license applicants.

The license currently allows solicitation between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but states no specific days of the week. It also requires the holder to carry a valid form of identification and a copy of the license itself. It also forbids the license holder to “enter or approach any private residence at which signs are present which expressly prohibit solicitation/peddling.”

Whittington and Bossier City Chief of Police Shane McWilliams formed the Bossier Financial Crimes Task Force by combining resources from both agencies to combat crimes, such as identity theft, fraud and embezzlement within the city and parish. The Bossier Financial Crimes Task Force is composed of white collar crime investigators with the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office and Bossier City Police Department.

Contact your local law enforcement agency to report any possible scams or criminal activity. The Bossier Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 965-2203 or call the Bossier City Police Department at 741-8605.