Telemarketing fraud on the rise

Despite the rise of the internet, telemarketing fraud is increasing dramatically. As your sheriff for the citizens of Scotland County, I want you to be aware that scammers are accessing and utilizing internet calling software, using this technology to contact high volumes of consumers. Millions of calls can be placed with the click of a mouse.

That’s why it’s important to be able to identify telemarketing scams. Last year alone, 4,460 complaints about telemarketing fraud were received by the North Carolina Department of Justice. Telephone solicitations are in this year’s North Carolina Attorney General’s top 10 consumer complaints. Scammers are usually located outside the U.S. and try to lure consumers into giving up their money and personal information.

Some of the most popular schemes include phony IRS/Treasury calls, threats of utility shutoff scams, grandparents and sweetheart scams (which is when a con artist nurtures an online relationship, builds trust and persuades a victim to send money), lotteries and sweepstakes. And scammers know how to hide their location and manipulate what shows up on a consumers’ Caller ID. Spoofing software has made it easier for scammers to make calls anonymously or make it appear as though their calls are coming from a legitimate organization.

I have provided some general guidelines to follow when considering a donation to an organization over the telephone:

— Ask the solicitor what percentage of funds actually raised goes to the charity and what goes to to fundraising.

— Insist on receiving materials by U.S. mail and never allow a courier to pick up your contribution.

— Do not be swayed by professional-looking materials alone.

— Reputable organizations can provide copies of their annual report and their official IRS letter designation the organization a tax-exempt 501 (c) (3).

To inquire if a charity is licensed in North Carolina, call (919) 807-2214.

Please remember, the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association never solicits over the telephone. If you are called by someone claiming to represent the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association seeking donations, please inform us immediately by calling 919-743-7433.

Ralph Kersey is sheriff of Scotland County.