Police alert residents to newest phone scam

By Joe P. Asher jasher@civitasmedia.com

March 4, 2014

The Harlan County Sheriff’s Office is warning area residents of a telephone scam that is currently in operation.

“In the last month or month and a half we’ve had an uptick in phone scams,” said Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird. “They will call individuals — and somehow they’re getting their personal information — date of birth, Social Security number, things like that.”

Lipfird said the callers are passing themselves off as employees of organizations such as the IRS.

“They’ve changed their tactic the last couple or three weeks,” said Lipfird. “They’re saying they’re with the Harlan County Sheriff’s Department.”

Lipfird pointed out this is a tip-off in itself, as the correct designation is the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office.

“They’re identifying themselves as deputy sheriffs, and saying if people don’t wire money to an account or go to Walmart and get a prepaid card and wire it, we’re going to come and arrest them,” said Lipfird.

Lipfird said the callers are asking for large sums of money.

“They’re asking for anywhere from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars,” said Lipfird.

Lipfird said the scammers will come up with any number of reasons why the money is owed.

“I’ve worked a couple of cases myself,” said Lipfird. “What they’re doing is the criminals will get on the Internet and get law enforcement agencies phone numbers.”

Lipfird said the scammers are using computer programs that will cause the caller ID on the the intended victim’s phone to show the call originating from the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office or another official agency, when in reality the call is not coming from there.

Lipfird said his office does not under any circumstances solicit funds in this manner.

According to Lipfird, the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office only collects funds for taxes, a concealed weapons permit or civil process fees. These fees are only collected via a credit card online or in person at the office.

“The Harlan County Sheriff’s Office does not solicit funds of any type from anyone,” said Lipfird.

Lipfird asks that anybody who receives a suspicious call of this nature report it to the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office at 606-573-1313 or 606-573-7427 or the Kentucky State Police.

Joe P. Asher may be reached at 606-573-4510, ext. 113 or on Twitter @joe_hde