By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Professional scam artists are apparently focusing on Atmore in their effort to separate individuals from their money and their personal information.
Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks said that his agency has received “numerous” complaints from residents who have been approached by fund-seeking fake charities, by bogus state and federal government representatives, and by those who claim to be local or area law enforcement officers.
The callers frequently prey on the elderly, but the attempts to fleece money from local residents has not been directed at any one group. In fact, Brooks and at least one city detective have been approached by the scam artists.
“It’s not based on demographics or age or anything like that; it’s everybody,” he said. “It’s becoming problematic for us. One of my investigators got a call yesterday, and I have had at least five calls on my personal cell phone.”
The most reported scam attempt made here thus far has been either the “Social Security caller,” who tries to wrangle banking and other personal information from the victim; the “pay-a-fine-immediately-or-go-to-jail” scam, and the call from a jailed relative who needs bail money.
Brooks said the fake solicitations reported here have all been by telephone, and most have directed their potential prey to buy a Green Dot card and call back with the card number.
Most of the would-be victims have alerted authorities of the calls before sending any money, but some have trustingly or nervously sent money almost immediately.
“We actually had a case where a large sum of money was wired out,” the police chief said. “We were able to jump on that pretty quick, and we had great work from one of the local banks, so that person got some of his money back, minus a little bit.”
Brooks added that the scammers rely on “spoofing,” using phone apps to disguise their out-of-area numbers, then use intimidation to shake money loose from some victims who are hesitant to comply.
“I’m afraid some of our elderly people are going to get hurt really bad financially,” he said. “Don’t let these people intimidate you into sending money or trying to take care of something financial on the phone.”
There is a simple way for a person to avoid becoming a victim, the police chief pointed out.
“My advice to anybody who gets one of these calls, immediately hang up,” he said. “If people are calling you, telling you to send money or provide personal identification information, 99 percent of the time, it’s a scam.”