WPD warns: ‘Tis the season for scammers; beware both online and locally

Beware both online, locally

By John Hamilton - and Tom Barr - News Journal

WILMINGTON — As the holiday season gets underway — and during any season, for that matter — local authorities ask residents to use common sense when giving to charity.

Wilmington Police Det. Scott Baker advises citizens to be on alert for scams, particularly those claiming to be a part of a charity.

“People need to be cautious during this time of giving,” said Baker.

Baker and WPD Chief Ron Cravens advise local residents to do research on charity organizations before donating.

Both also advise considering giving to local charities — there are many of them to give toward and it immediately benefits the area.


Both officials told the News Journal that if anyone seeks to go door-to-door to solicit charity donations, they have to register with the city. So, if locals have any questions about a solicitor, they can call the WPD.

Solicitors must also have the paperwork on them while collecting donations so they can present their credentials when asked.

In 2017, a Wilmington woman was convicted of theft and sent to jail after posing as someone from a local non-profit charity and taking the intended donations for herself.

Phone scams

Authorities advise residents to look out for phone call scams that ask for money through gift cards.

Within the past week a Clinton County resident contacted WPD because her elderly mother in Columbus received a call from someone claiming to be from Social Security.

The victim bought $2,000 in gift cards from Walmart, called the suspect back and gave them the numbers off the cards. Wilmington police advised it is unlikely that the money could be recovered.

Apple has released an article on warning people about iTunes scams online.

“A string of scams are taking place asking people to make payments over the phone for things such as taxes, hospital bills, bail money, debt collection, and utility bills,” the article states.

Regardless of the scam, the scammers follow a certain formula, the article continues.

“The victim receives a call instilling panic and urgency to make a payment by purchasing App Stores and iTunes Gift Cards or Apple Store Gift Cards from the nearest retailer … after the cards have been purchased, the victim is asked to pay by sharing the code(s) on the back of the card with the caller over the phone.”

The article notes that these gift cards can only used to purchase goods and services from Apple-related stores (iTunes, the App Store, Apple Books, and Apple Music).

For more information of this type of scam visit support.apple.com/itunes-gift-card-scams.

Imposter sites

Make sure that online shopping site you’re using is a legitimate one and not an imposter site.

And beware of “phishing” emails from what appear to be shipping companies contacting you to “confirm” a shipment, and any other sites that ask for your personal information.

If you receive an email, investigate it first; it could be from someone trying to hack into your computer to either retrieve personal information or to plant a virus.

Trash into treasure

It’s true that one person’s trash can be another one’s treasure, and Wilmington police also advise to use common sense year-round, but especially during the holidays, to keep their homes and information safe.

Never put your trash out too early, to help ensure no one can go through it and see what you’ve purchased and/or to get your financial/identity information. And don’t simply put the empty boxes out for criminals to see what you might have inside your home.

The Wilmington Police Department also advises you to simply lock your vehicles, and keep valuables and personal identification items in the house and not in your vehicle.

‘Secret Sister’

Another more recent scam is a pyramid scheme called “Secret Sister”. According to CNN, “A stranger on the internet promises you a Christmas gift for a $10 buy-in and some personal information, it probably isn’t legit, the Better Business Bureau warns. Not only will you be conned out of a gift, but you might have accidentally joined an illegal pyramid scheme.

“‘Secret Sister’, an internet-wide gift exchange that tasks users with fulfilling each others’ Christmas lists, is an illegal scam that could put personal information at risk, the consumer watchdog nonprofit said.

“The concept is harmless enough,” according to CNN. “Facebook users recruit “sisters” with the promise that they could receive up to 36 gifts —as long as they buy a $10 gift for a stranger on the internet, provide their name, address and email and recruit some more friends to join, the BBB said. But users often don’t know who they’re buying gifts for or whether those internet strangers will return the favor. And they don’t know what these strangers will do with their personal information, which could open them up to cybersecurity breaches, the BBB said.”

More online tips

Check your accounts and online sites frequently to make sure you haven’t been hacked. Defend yourself — Consumer Reports advises, “Vary your passwords and change them frequently. Consider using passphrases—strings of words, rather than just one or two. A password like ConsumerReports is easier to hack than, say, Consum3rRep0rts1sMyF@vorite!”

Also, beware of “Scammers offering to buy gift cards may ask you to do a three-way ‘balance check’ in which they listen in on the phone while you confirm the balance with the card issuer” according to Consumer Reports.

They also advise: “Don’t give to crowdfunding sites established by people you don’t know. Check how much a charity actually gives toward its ‘good works’ on websites like CharityWatch and Charity Navigator. If you want to get a tax deduction, you can also go to the charity’s website to confirm its tax-exempt status or check with the IRS. See our advice on the best and worst charities for your donations for more information.”

Beware both online, locally

By John Hamilton

and Tom Barr

News Journal