LAFOURCHE PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Lafourche Parish officials say scammers become particularly active during the holiday season and want to warn citizens to be careful.
Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle also urged citizens to be vigilant. "We urge citizens to always be vigilant in guarding their personal information," he said. "As the holiday season approaches, scams seem to increase and we urge people to be aware and be careful when making transactions over the telephone or through the mail."
Lafourche officials detailed a couple of scams that happened recently. They say last month several citizens received a check in the mail along with a letter stating they had won a cash drawing. The citizens were instructed to deposit the check that was to help pay for a "processing fee" for the prize. Lafourche Parish officials say the cash prize was fake and the checks were invalid.
Another scam outlined by authorities involves the IRS. The Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office says throughout the year several citizens said they got phone calls stating they payment was due for back taxes and the caller even threatened someone would arrest them if payment was made immediately.
"If any government or law enforcement agency asks you to wire money 'immediately' or give personal information for any reason, you should definitely be suspicious," said Sheriff Craig Webre. "While there are certainly circumstances in which failure to pay fees or fines could result in an arrest warrant being issued, it is likely that you will be well aware of the situation. Through our proactive efforts, our office would contact you well in advance to remind you of payment being due, and you would have several options to pay. If the only option you are presented with is to pay using a pre-paid debit card or any type of gift card, it is an obvious sign of a scam."
Sheriff Webre detailed these signs of a scam:
• You are told to pay taxes, fees, or shipping charges for a larger sum of money or luxury prize.
• You are told to send payment immediately or suffer some consequence.
• You are told not to call any number other than the one provided.
• You are not familiar with the caller, the company name, or they refuse to tell you.
• You are contacted by an unknown caller, but the caller I.D. shows your information or that of a friend or relative.
• The caller asks for sensitive account or personal information.
• The caller is rude or uses offensive or vulgar language.
If you believe you are the victim of a scam, you're urged to call your local law enforcement agency. If you think the call is legitimate, the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office says to contact the company yourself with a phone number you know to be valid.
"Thankfully, more and more people are recognizing the signs of scams, preventing themselves from being victimized," said Sheriff Webre. "We encourage you to speak with your entire family, especially any elderly relatives, and ensure they recognize the signs of scam. The bottom line is to use common sense and good practices such as never giving personal or financial information on an incoming call."