Melena McNeill dispatch

DISPATCH — Haywood County 911 Communications dispatcher Melena McNeill prepares for the next call. Communications and front office employees at the Sheriff’s Office answer several calls from victims or near-victims of scam calls on a daily basis some weeks.

A countless number of unseen thieves continue to creep their way into the purses, wallets and bank accounts of Haywood County citizens every day.

Phone scammers are coming up with new ways to steal from those they are able to keep on the other line, and in several cases in Haywood County, the criminals have been successful.

Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher said scammers are getting very creative in their research and storytelling abilities and his office wants citizens to know about the latest scam reports they are getting.

“Our front office and communications center receive calls just about on a daily basis from someone reporting a scam,” said Sheriff Christopher. “Most of the times, they are citizens who recognized the red flags of a scam and wanted to let us know about the call. It is important to remember, however, that even if you are familiar with these phony call tactics, you never know what they’ll think of next.”

Just in the month of August, there were two separate incidents that involved victims losing more than $2,000 because of a scam call.

The latest and possibly the most creative scam the office is hearing about involves a story about the sex offender registry process.

It appears scammers are searching names on the sex offender registry and then checking internet phone listings of those names.

The scammer is spoofing the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office phone number, then telling the person on the other line that the office’s sex offender registry employee has been suspended. The caller is saying as a result of this suspension, there is now an error in paperwork. The caller continues to tell the individual to resolve this issue they must pay $2,500 to avoid arrest.

Another scam reported to the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office involves a scammer pretending to be a law enforcement officer.

Many times, the scammer uses the name of a real sheriff’s office employee to make the scam sound legitimate. The scammer then pitches a wide array of stories as to why the individual needs to pay money immediately. Most recently, the scammer said a copy of the individual’s social security number was located inside a vehicle that was being searched for drugs. The scammer then tells the caller various reasons why they could become part of the criminal case if they do not pay money.

“The only effective way to get ahead of this issue is awareness and education of the red flags,” said Sheriff Christopher. “We cannot speak to every scenario that people will be pitched over the phone, but we can tell you loud and clear, our office will never ask you to pay us anything over the phone. Scammers succeed by creating fear and urgency in the people who stay on the phone with them.”

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