After two separate people report losses in scams, sheriffs reiterate warning

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2022

Following two separate reports from residents who have fallen victim to scams and ended up losing fairly substantial amounts of money, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office reminds residents to be exceedingly cautious about sending money to people they do not know.

The first reported scam cost a local resident approximately $3,000. The man told deputies he received a text message telling him he had won $1 million, but in order to receive the funds, he would need to purchase a number of gift cards, in varying amounts, from multiple businesses. When the amount reached $3,000, the man became suspicious and went to his bank. The bank checked the balances on the cards he had purchased and on each the balance was now zero.

Under limited circumstances, according to a spokeswoman at the N.C. Commissioner of Banks, a gift card may be replaced at the business’ discretion. She pointed out that the commission has no oversight at all of gift cards, but said she is aware that with some companies, if the person has a receipt with the card number on it and it can be verified that there are still funds available, the company may choose to cancel the original gift card and issue a replacement. But she said in truth, gift cards should be treated like cash — once they are gone, so is the money.

In a second report, deputies said a woman lost more than $20,000 in an effort to purchase a Yorkshire Terrier puppy.

The woman told deputies that in December, she contacted a breeder on Facebook Marketplace who was advertising the puppy for $700. She said the seller asked for a $100 deposit, which she provided. On Dec. 17, she was contacted by the seller who said she needed to purchase dog food and vaccines for the puppy, and the victim sent $500 for food and $1,000 for the vaccines.

Since Dec. 17, the victim told deputies she has sent more than $20,000 to the seller using Vanilla Visa cards, and again, the card balances are now zero.

The sheriff’s department spokesman said it is always unfortunate when victims report these situations, because often there is very little deputies can do. The most important action people can take is to use extreme caution in sending anyone they do not know money, especially if the person is asking for payment in the form of a gift card or a prepaid credit/debit card. Those should all be considered the same as sending cash, because there is little recourse for recovery once the money is off the card. He said there have been similar scams for years, but the internet has allowed for an increase. But people should always be wary of being told they have won a contest that they have not entered, and should do all they can to verify that a seller is legitimate before making a purchase by asking for information like licensing information, business identification to check registration or reviews, and ask if there are other customers you can talk with.

“Just remember that old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.