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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Police warn of scams in summer

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

SIKESTON -- As the weather heats up so do those too-good-to-be-true summer scams.

Sikeston Department of Public Safety Capt. Mark Crocker remembers a couple of summers ago when a resident was taken for $7,000 during a power washing scam.

"They were supposed to power wash her house for $50, and the resident let them write out her check. Well the guy wrote $50 but he left a big space where he could add a seven and zero later," Crocker recalled.

Chief Deputy Charlie Markham of Mississippi County Sheriff's Department said if a person has any kind of leery feelings about someone offering a service, they should request a reference number of the previous customer and make contact with them.

Any legitimate business should be able to provide someone with a reference number, Markham said.

"When you ask for a reference number, it will put (those who aren't legit) on the road," Markham pointed out. "And never give them partial payment for work that hasn't been done."

Although Crocker said Sikeston DPS hasn't had any reports of scams lately, Markham said Mississippi County has.

"We have had a couple of cases. Some of it's paving the driveways and they come to the door and say, 'I'm here to seal your driveway," Markham said. "And the other was gravel. One elderly lady paid for a load of gravel in advance and the person went to the bank, and she never saw her gravel."

Both Markham and Crocker said summer is always a target for outdoor repair scams such as driveway and roofing repairs.

"Many times they prey on elderly people and aren't capable of going out and doing the things at a reasonable price," said Crocker about the con-artists. "They're going to find a way to hook you on these deals."

Sometimes, the scam is just a matter of getting into a house to steal items like check books and credit cards to make a small fortune, Crocker said.

"The bottom line is if you don't know, don't let them in," Crocker advised.

If repair work is needed on a home, use reputable people, Crocker suggested. "Get people who've you've done business with before and it may cost more, but at least you know they're credible," Crocker said.

Never give out Vehicle Identification Number or the credit card identification number, which is the 3-digit number on the back of the credit card, Markham said.

Other scams include gypsies traveling from town to town and a Spanish lottery that notifies its "winners" by mail and asks them to send in bank account information. Bank/credit card phone scams are also popular methods of scamming.

"If they're calling and requesting the information, and it's nobody you know that would have a good reason to get it, don't give them the information," Crocker said. "If it's your bank, they wouldn't do it over the phone -- you would make the corrections in person."

Internet scams are going on all the time, soliciting money and account information, Crocker noted.

"The biggest thing is if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is," Crocker said. "And people are creative and inventive on these things -- way more than even I can imagine."

If someone is a victim of a scam, they should contact their local law enforcement officials immediately because the longer they wait to report a crime, the less a chance of apprehending the suspect, Crocker said.