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Sheriff says offline scams still threat

These days, when Internet scams have everyone up in arms, it is tempting to forget about their real-world brethren.

But Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton says phone and door-to-door trickery are still common in the area, and he's trying to teach residents that the best defense is a little common sense.

Spring has officially sprung, and that means the return of fresh flowers, chirping birds and Š home repair scams. The warm weather makes it an ideal time for scammers to trick people into paying them for work that may never get done.

"This time of year it's not unusual to have people come into Lawrence County and knock on somebody's door, and say 'Hey, we noticed your driveway needs patching, we'll do it,' and the next thing you know they're gone," Sexton said.

Sexton said that some of the most common home-repair scams are people claiming to repair roofs, seal driveways or paint houses that either do a sub-par job for an above average price, or simply take the money and run.

Phone scams are also still common, with callers offering the world free-of-charge, usually with the intent of stealing information, or tricking the victim into paying some sort of service fee.

The vulnerable

Joan Lawless is a home health nurse from South Point, and she said that she could easily have been a victim of some of these scams had she not known better.

"When they call, you know because they ask for so much information, like your Social Security number," Lawless said. "I've gotten calls saying I've won free trips and that everything will be paid for, but I've learned that nothing in this life is free."

The problem is more serious for Lawless because her son, who has developmental delays, is often the one who answers the phone. Though she has instructed him not to dole out personal information, she is still worried that he could be a victim of these scams.

Lawless' case is not unusual, as it's usually the most vulnerable of citizens who are targeted by these scams such as senior citizens who are often pressured by potential scam artists.

"They push and pressure you, especially the elderly. They target the elderly" Sexton said. "You just have to say that you don't want to talk to them, and hang up the phone."

One step ahead

Residents can take some simple steps that Sexton said may help ensure they do not become a victim of a scam artist.

When a suspected scammer offers to do repairs, obtain references, as a reputable business will always provide them. Don't pay in advance, don't give away personal information, keep all records, and get everything in writing. If you do decide to employ their services, check the work carefully, or have it checked by a knowledgeable friend.

One of the problems that the authorities have in dealing with these cases is that some victims are too embarrassed to report the crime, but Sexton said that the first step to take after being victimized is to always alert law enforcement.

Due to the prevalence of these crimes, it is often only citizens who can help stop them. If you feel that someone may be running a scam, Sexton advises attempting to get their license plate number and vehicle, which can aid police in tracking down the culprit, thereby doing your part to save your fellow citizens from the scammers.