Police warn against scams, fraud
by Staff Reports
Law enforcement agencies are urging the public to stay vigilant after recent reports of fraud and scams in Watauga County.
On Friday, a man reported to the Boone Police Department that he had been the victim of a "Nigerian check scam" fraud.
The man said he was contacted online in response to a Craigslist advertisement. The suspect purchased the item for sale with a check issued in an amount greater than the price of the item.
The seller was asked to distribute the remaining amount to three different locations via Western Union -- two in the U.S. and one in Nigeria.
The seller later was contacted by his bank and told that the checks were worthless. Financial institutions often hold customers responsible for money lost as a result of a scam.
Individuals use email, postal mail and telephones to contact potential victims, according to police. The police department reminded residents that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Any promises of large sums of money by unknown people should be carefully scrutinized.
Avoid responding to:
-- Any correspondence that offers money but requests that you pay a fee first.
-- Any correspondence that offers a check and requests that you take a percentage and then use Western Union to send the remaining money somewhere else. The use of Western Union is common in these scams and should be a red flag.
-- Any prize winnings from contests that you did not participate in and that request you pay postage and handling, other charges, or request banking information such as an account number in advance.
-- If the person contacting you advises you against speaking with your bank, attorney or contacting the company they say they represent before fulfilling their request.
-- If the contact is requesting that you assist them in getting money out of their country.
-- If the contact is telling you that you are receiving an inheritance from someone you don't know.
A resident also reported a possible paving scam in Valle Crucis to the Watauga County Sheriff's Office on June 17.
The paver approached the homeowner with an offer to patch holes in the driveway for $3.75 a foot, which the homeowner agreed to do. The paver then paved the entire driveway without the homeowner's permission and demanded $10,000 for the work.
Sheriff Len Hagaman urged residents to use licensed, local and well-recommended contractors. He suggested that residents rely on recommendations from neighbors, local building contractors or the Chamber of Commerce.