News Flash

Sheriff's Office

Posted on: December 3, 2020

Beware of scams this holiday season

Scam Alert

The holiday season brings with it an increased risk of fraud. Protect yourself and your family by learning how to spot these common scams.

  • Law Enforcement Scam (Phone Scam)

The scammer claims they are from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, or another law enforcement entity, and may use several different names, including the names of current and former HCSO employees, such as Lt. Kevin Miller, Investigator Scott Hicks or Lt. Steve Knight. The scammer may tell the victim:

  • The victim has warrants for their arrest (may be for a variety of reasons, including missing jury duty or a criminal violation) and will be arrested immediately unless they sent money to the scammer;
  • They are raising funds for fallen officers and would like the victim to make a donation;
  • The victim's loved one is in jail and needs their help to post bail.

 In all of these situations the scammer may ask for gift cards, cash or personal information.

  • Secret Sister Gift Exchange Scam (Social Media Scam)

A friend on social media may post or share a variation of the following:

  • The post states that the friend is participating in a secret sister gift exchange and solicits participants.
  • Participants are told to send a gift (worth at least $10) to one person and they will receive "6-36" gifts back.

This is a pyramid scheme and it is illegal in the United States. While you may receive one gift, depending on where you are in the chain, it is mathematically impossible that you will receive 36 and even more likely that you will receive nothing at all.

Learn more about this scam from the Better Business Bureau: https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/18854-bbb-warning-secret-sister-gift-exchange-is-illegal

  • Book Exchange Scam (Social Media Scam)

A friend on social media may post or share a variation of the following:

  • The post states that the friend is participating in a book exchange and solicits participants.
  • Participants are told to send a book to one person and they will receive "6-36" books back.

This is a pyramid scheme and it is illegal in the United States. While you may receive one book, depending on where you are in the chain, it is mathematically impossible that you will receive 36 and even more likely that you will receive nothing at all.

  • Costco Voucher Scam (Social Media Scam)

A social media post claims that Costco is offering a free $75 coupon in celebration of the company's anniversary to users who click particular links and follow the instructions found there. Those who follow such instructions are then led into a set of pages prompting them to input a fair amount of personal information (including name, age, address, and phone numbers), complete a lengthy series of surveys, and finally sign up (and commit to paying) for at least two “Reward Offers” (e.g., Netflix subscriptions, credit report monitoring services, prepaid credit cards).

 

Protect Yourself from Theft

  • Spot imposters 

Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company with which you do business. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request – whether it comes as a text, a phone call or an email. If a scammer is impersonating a loved one or government official, call back at a publicly listed number for the organization from which the scammer claims to be or contact your loved one directly.
 

  • Do online searches 

Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “Social Security call” or “grandparent scam.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
 

  • Don’t believe your caller ID 

Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up.
 

  • Talk to someone 

Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.
 

  • Don’t rely on personal information 

Living in the digital age, access to information is easier than ever. Scammers are often able to get their hands on very personal information, including the names, ages, and addresses of your loved ones, providing it to their victims to make their scam look more legitimate. Don’t trust a scammer who is able to provide your or your loved one’s personal information. 

Sign up for the Federal Trade Commission’s scam alerts at ftc.gov/scams

Visit https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds#item-35157 to learn how to report scams.

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