Arrest Report - Monday - August 3, 2020
Here is the latest arrest report from the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office for Monday, August 3, 2020:
GA DDS Offers Summer Heat Motorcycle Safety Tips
The dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion increase as temperatures rise — but state safety experts are warning motorcyclists to keep their gear on anyway.
Motorcyclists’ hot weather survival begins with insulation and hydration, according to Georgia Department of Driver Services Commissioner Sprencer R. Moore.
“Gear up – not down to survive the heat,” Moore said in a Saturday release. “Unfortunately, many motorcyclists assume that wearing less means more comfort and safety from the heat.”
Wearing protective gear is only one precaution cyclists may take when the Georgia sun shines too hot. Others include:
* Consider trips at higher elevations;
* Take breaks frequently in the shade/air conditioning;
* Drink plenty of water but stay away from alcohol;
* Remember to eat;
* Stay insulated with boots, heavy gloves, thick jacket;
* Add a wet neck collar.
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are serious health risks in the summer. Muscle soreness or cramping are early signs of problems with the heat. If you are out and your legs cramp up, take a break and drink a lot of water.
Headaches, dizziness, fainting are also signs you are overheating.
When suffering from heat exhaustion, your core body temperature is close to normal ranges. You may feel the symptoms listed above plus a few others: clammy skin, extra sweating, nausea.
Another Northwest Georgia Event Canceled For 2020
News came last week that the Chattooga County Agricultural Fair has been canceled for 2020. The Town of Lyerly followed that up with an announcement on Friday that Lyerly Down Home Day for 2020 has also been canceled. Also on Friday afternoon, the Chiaha Harvest Fair announced that they will not be holding the fair this year.
The following press statement was released by the Chiaha Harvest Fair on Friday:
“It is with great sadness that we must announce that we will be cancelling the 2020 Chiaha Harvest Fair. In light of concerns over safely serving our artists and patron in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we feel it is the most prudent choice.
Watch for news in the coming days introducing a new Chiaha Harvest Fair Marketplace public Facebook group that will give patrons the opportunity to shop with all of your favorite Chiaha artists, craftsmen and musicians that you have come to love over the years. You will be able to access the wonderful products that you find at the Chiaha Harvest Fair from the comfort of your own home.
Also, watch for news about our exciting move to the Coosa Valley Farigrounds next year! The weather-induced issues we have dealt with over the last few years and the need to continue to grow the festival to what we envision have made it necessary for us to seek out a new location. We are very excited and look forward to celebrating the move with you next year!
Stay safe and well, and join us here as we relive some memories of Chiahas past over the coming weeks!”
Government Impostor Scams: As Reports Decrease, Scammers Look For New Opportunities
Suppose you get an unexpected telephone call from a government agency telling you that a police officer will be there shortly to arrest you. Most people would be shocked and afraid. The caller seems legitimate, providing badge numbers and perhaps even personal information about you. The caller ID displays the name of a real government agency. Here’s the catch: the caller claims jail time can be avoided if you pay a fine by immediately going to a store, purchasing gift cards, and reporting the code numbers to them.
44% of Americans have encountered a government impostor scam.
Over the last several years, the public has been under assault by scammers impersonating a multitude of government agencies. Research by Better Business Bureau (BBB) found the Social Security Administration, Service Canada, the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Agency are among the most widely impersonated agencies.
However, during the COVID-19 pandemic and after the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and United States Treasury Department’s names have been used by scammers to manipulate and steal from unwitting consumers.
In other scenarios, scammers threaten arrest for missing jury duty, impersonate immigration officials and threaten to deport people, or offer free money in the form of government grants.
A recent AARP survey found that 44% of Americans over the age of 18 had been exposed to these types of scams. Also, 77% of those surveyed were at least somewhat familiar with government impostor scams. BBB estimates victims have collectively lost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Most of these calls appear to originate in India, and law enforcement in the U.S. and Canada have aggressively prosecuted people here that launder the money from victims. Although law enforcement in India has made efforts to close down some of the originating call centers, actual prosecutions or extraditions have been rare.
In a Justice Department Journal of Federal Law and Practice article about efforts to fight telemarketing fraud coming from India, the department official who authored the piece said: “Little evidence exists to suggest that the Indian government will successfully prosecute and impose significant sentences on the perpetrators of these call center scams operating within Ahmedabad and elsewhere within India.”
There has been a dramatic drop in complaints in the U.S. about these scams so far in 2020. Because such calls are made using Voice over Internet (VoIP) systems, they have to travel through a “gateway carrier” to enter the domestic phone system and reach victims. U.S. law enforcement has been taking action against these gateway carriers, and this tactic has resulted in a sharp drop in automated recorded “robocalls” from outside the U.S. The same enforcement actions also took aim at caller ID spoofing.
Though scam calls have been reduced in the U.S., they have not been eliminated. Clever scammers will look for ways to evade these controls and adapt to law enforcement’s strides in preventing fraud. For example, in a recent development during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) says it has received over 1,700 complaints about calls supposedly from “IRS agents” who claim they can speed up stimulus payments under the CARES Act passed during the pandemic. Scammers get personal information from victims and use it to have government payments redirected to accounts they control.
This BBB study examines the size of the government impostor problem, identifies who is affected, examines the types of fraudulent claims made to victims of these scams, explains the elements needed to operate the scams, and looks at law enforcement efforts to identify and apprehend the perpetrators.
How common is government impostor fraud?
Government impostor scams produce many complaints to BBB, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
In 2019, BBB reports about scammers impersonating tax officials dropped sharply while reports about Social Security Administration (SSA) impersonators quadrupled in the U.S. Complaints about calls from Service Canada, however, have increased this year.
Total government impostor complaints
|Year||FTC||IC3||BBB Scam Tracker|
|2020 (through 6/30)||62,970||664|
IRS impostor complaints to BBB Scam Tracker
|2020 (through 6/30)||31|
SSA impostor complaints to BBB Scam Tracker
|2020 (through 6/30)||515|
Canada Revenue Agency impostor complaints
|2020 (through 5/14)||609|
Service Canada impostor complaints
|2020 (through 5/14)||3,875|
How much money is lost to government impostor fraud?
The amount of money lost to this fraud is staggering. In July 2019, the FTC estimated victims lost $450 million from 2014 until that time. This chart shows the losses reported to IC3 have quickly grown. (The FTC does not release annual loss numbers in its yearly reports.)
Internet Crime Complaint Center
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC)
|Year||Canada Revenue Agency||Service Canada|
|2018||$6.412 million||not available|
|2019||$1.49 million||$1.29 million|
|2020||$303,609 (through 5/14)||$1.228 million (through 6/30)|
How many of those receiving a government impostor call lose money?
The FTC estimates that about 6% of those receiving these calls lose money. As noted, however, even if most people do not respond to these calls, it is still a highly profitable endeavor for the scammers.
How are people contacted about government impostor scams?
The FTC estimates that contact is initiated by telephone 96% of the time. Some people also get emails, text messages or fake letters.
What is the average age of victims of impostor scams?
People ages 20-59 were more likely to lose money to these scams than those 60 years or older, but older victims were more likely to lose larger amounts of money, according to FTC estimates. AARP found that younger victims ages 18-49 are more likely to have health/emotional consequences from this scam; 25% of victims in this age group were found to experience these, versus 12% of older victims.
What are the average losses to these scams?
The amount of money lost can vary dramatically, from just a couple of hundred dollars to very large amounts. The FTC found that the median amount lost was $960. However, median losses for those over 60 were $2,700.
How do victims pay?
Victims pay through gift cards and reloadable cards 58% of the time, according to FTC research. Another 13% paid by wire transfer, either a bank-to-bank transfer or through Western Union or MoneyGram. The most recent complaints show that the majority of victims pay by gift card. Scammers do not need the card itself. They can access the money loaded on the cards if victims simply provide the scratch-off numbers on the back. Because many scammers also try to obtain bank account information, it is likely that money is also being stolen from victims’ accounts. In addition, many victims are being asked to send cash by mail or Federal Express.
Most common types of government impostor scams
At present, the bulk of complaints are about calls supposedly from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) or, in Canada, its counterpart Service Canada.
These scams often — though not always — begin with a robocall which, if not answered, leaves a voicemail message instructing the victim to call back. Most threaten an imminent arrest or legal action if the victim does not return the call. The number displayed on the caller ID is not the actual source of the call. In the course of these scams, they often also impersonate the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other enforcement agencies.
Social Security/Service Canada impersonators
Several different tactics are employed by these scammers. Most involve robocalls or direct phone calls, but SSA has recently warned that scammers have supplemented their efforts by sending emails to victims with attachments that look like official correspondence from SSA or the SSA Inspector General (SSA IG). These fake documents direct victims to call a specified “officer.”
Both the SSA IG and Service Canada have issued warnings to the public about impostor scams. In particular, the FTC reminds the public that Social Security numbers are never “suspended.” BBB also has issued warnings about Social Security impostors.
Increase a benefit: Some callers tell victims that they are eligible for increased Social Security benefits, typically claiming that it’s for a cost of living increase. The caller requests bank account details so that the money can be deposited into the victim’s account. Once the scammers have the victim’s bank account information, they are able to steal money from those accounts. This version of the scam only works for victims eligible for benefits.
Restore Social Security number: Other callers claim that the victim’s number has been suspended. The victim is asked for a payment to “restore” the number. In some variations, the scammers need details about the victim’s Social Security account. If that information is provided, the scammer can apply for benefits in a victim’s name or have the benefits redirected to accounts the scammer controls.
Social Security or Social Insurance Number used in a crime: Perhaps the most common Social Security-related scam involves threat of arrest. Scammers call directly or leave voicemail messages telling victims that if they do not call back, they will be arrested right away. The FTC has posted one of these Social Security scam recordings.
Callers pretend to be law enforcement, such as the FBI, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) or DEA. They tell victims a car was found abandoned with drugs and blood in it, often in El Paso, Texas, and that the car was rented using the victim’s Social Security number. When people deny involvement, the “officer” then says they must be an identity theft victim and money needs to be moved out of their bank accounts temporarily because
1) the ID thieves may steal it or
2) the government is freezing it because of criminal charges.
Thus, they have victims withdraw money from their bank accounts, buy gift cards, and read the numbers over the phone to the “agent.” These scammers claim they will visit the victim at their home in a few days, return their money, and provide them with a new Social Security number.
A BBB office in Wisconsin returned one of these calls and played along until asked for bank account information. They have posted the call on YouTube.
This scam successfully defrauded a Chicago college basketball coach named London. After a team workout in June 2019, he listened to a voicemail message from the Social Security Administration advising him that his identity had been used in Texas and asking him to call back.
He returned the call and spoke to a man who claimed to be with Social Security. The caller said someone using London’s identity had been involved in a cocaine deal in Texas and that there was a warrant out for his arrest. The caller already knew a great deal of information about London, including his parent’s names and email addresses. London said he was scared at the time.
The caller then transferred London to “Officer Hayden Smith” of the DEA, who provided his badge number. Smith said there was an open investigation on London and asked for his cooperation. He said if London didn’t cooperate, a warrant would be issued for his arrest and the crime would be made public. Smith stressed that if London hung up the phone, he would be immediately arrested.
Smith said London’s bank account was frozen. In order to move the funds out of his personal account and into a “safety account,” London would have to buy Target gift cards, which the police would turn over to the U.S. Treasury to place into an account where his money would be safe.
London was told to buy Target gift cards in the same amount as his bank account balance. He withdrew all the money in both his checking and savings accounts. Smith directed London to drive to five different Target stores to buy more than $28,000 in gift cards while he stayed on the phone. After the final purchase, London read the numbers from the cards to Smith in the parking lot. Before reading them all, London used his phone to look up “fake call scammers” and found an FTC warning describing this type of call. He knew then that he was scammed, and he said, “You’re scamming me. I’m hanging up.” The agent then said, “You don’t want to do that, this is for the police.” The scammers kept calling back, and London’s mom got on the phone and cursed them for their actions.
London knew the president of BBB of Central Ohio and called him for advice. He filed reports with BBB, the police and Target. He was able to recoup $2,000 because he hadn’t provided all of the gift card numbers to the scammers, but the rest of the money was gone.
Lina is a St. Louis teacher who had a similar experience in June 2019 when she received two robocalls from “Social Security” on the same day. She knew a bit about scam calls pretending to be the IRS and tech support scams, and she knew from her work that Social Security does not call people by phone, so she was skeptical.
The first call, which she did not return, was a robotic-sounding voicemail message that claimed her Social Security number had been compromised and instructed her to call the number that appeared on her caller ID. She did not respond. Lina says that this recording was the same as the one captured on nomorobo.com’s website.
Later that day, a second robocall recording — from a cellphone number registered with a company in India — prompted her to “press one” to talk to a live person. The man who answered told Lina her Social Security number had been compromised and asked for her full name and the last four digits of her Social Security number.
Lina made up a fake name and gave the man four random numbers instead of her real Social Security information. The man told Lina he saw her case and that her Social Security number had been used in El Paso, Texas and had been linked to drug trafficking and money laundering. He asked her if she had a bank account with Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Chase or if she had shared her information with anyone. She told him no.
He then provided her with a case number and a warrant identification number.
The man told Lina she needed to pay $8,900 and an additional $1,000. The reason for these amounts was unclear. He asked if she had left her purse unattended, apparently suggesting she might be a victim of identity theft. Lina said she would never risk losing her information because there are people out there taking advantage and scamming them. At that point, the caller recognized Lina’s suspicion and hung up on her. Lina reported the incident to BBB to help prevent others from being scammed.
Internal Revenue Service/Canada Revenue Agency impostors
Although the exact nature of these calls varies, there are several clear points of similarity. The caller pretends to be a federal agent and claims the victim is about to be arrested for unpaid taxes or for tax fraud, often pretending that officers will be there within an hour or two to arrest them. But the victim can avoid this if they pay a fine, or the unpaid taxes, immediately. Victims are told to go to a local store to buy gift cards and then provide the caller with the numbers on the back of each card. Often the caller stays on the telephone with the victim throughout this process, sometimes for hours.
Scammers pay close attention to current events in order to further their schemes, and there have been numerous efforts to exploit the pandemic.
- TIGTA reports that callers have impersonated the IRS, claiming to expedite benefits under the CARES Act.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns of scam calls displaying the CDC’s phone number in caller ID. Some of these calls request donations. Emails or text messages may contain malicious programs that are downloaded if the recipient clicks on a link. IC3 has issued a similar warning about fake CDC emails.
- BBB warns of texts, emails, or social media notices claiming to be from contact tracers, informing the recipient that they may have come in contact with someone who has tested positive to the virus. These may contain malicious attachments or seek personal information for use in other scams. The contact tracing scam has been noted as a particular problem in the UK.
- Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) recently issued an alert to U.S. financial institutions urging them to be alert to government impostor and money mule scams that are related to COVID-19.
In these scams, callers tell victims that they have failed to report for jury duty, have ignored warnings about this issue, and are to be arrested within hours. Often these calls actually display the caller ID of the U.S. Marshals’ office or the local sheriff’s department. The victim is told that they can avoid arrest if they pay a fine and purchase gift cards. BBB, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Federal Courts are only a few of the groups that have warned of this scam.
Danny received a call in 2018 from a man identifying himself as Captain Rolland from the local Wichita County (Texas) Sheriff’s Department, telling him a warrant had been issued for his arrest as the result of failing to appear for scheduled jury duty. Danny was told he needed to pay a fine of $9,500 by buying Green Dot MoneyPak “vouchers” at Office Depot. He was told he should buy the vouchers, provide the numbers to the caller, and go to the sheriff’s department to explain his innocence. After that, the caller said, Danny’s money would be refunded and all charges would be removed from his record.
When Danny asked if this was a scam, he was invited to do an internet search of the number on his caller ID. Danny did so, and the number did belong to the local sheriff’s department. He said the callers were extremely polished and convincing. They kept him on the phone for over an hour before he asked his wife to call the local sheriff’s office. She did, and they told her it was a scam. Danny then told the scammers he had the real sheriff’s office on the other line, and they immediately hung up on him. He filed a complaint with BBB to help prevent others from falling for this scam. Not long after this event, the sheriff’s office issued an alert.
Customs and immigration
This scam targets immigrants living in the United States or Canada. Victims are told there is an irregularity in their passport or immigration papers, and that they will be deported from the U.S. in days. Victims are instructed to buy gift cards to pay a fine. This scam also includes calls purporting to come from the U.S. Consulate in another country. They employ the same tactics to get money from victims. U.S. and Canadian governments have warned of this scam.
Victims receive calls stating the government is providing grants that don’t need to be repaid. However, scammers tell victims fees are needed before the grant money can be delivered. The FTC and BBB have issued warnings about this scam.
Many of the grant scams locate victims on social media, where scammers send messages looking like they are from a Facebook friend that claims the “friend” recently was awarded a free grant worth thousands of dollars. The message urges the targeted victims to reach out to an agent by phone or text so they, too, can get a grant. Scammers then demand fees to get the grant, which is never delivered.
Sylvie’s case is typical of a grant scam. She lives in San Mateo, California, and works as a security guard. In October 2019, she received a voicemail message saying she had been randomly selected to receive a government grant of $11,300. She confirms that it was the same voicemail message posted at nomorobo.com.
She returned the call and talked to “Irene Johnson,” and Sylvie thought it sounded like she was talking to a call center in India. Irene connected her to another representative who asked her questions about the purpose of the grant, suggesting she respond that it was for education. Sylvie planned to use the money to help her son and daughter.
Irene told Sylvie there was a $500 application fee, and told her to go to a store and buy a $500 eBay gift card and call her back. Sylvie did as asked, returning the call, taking a photo of the pictures on the back of the card and sending that back as a text message.
Sylvie then got a call from “Adam Hunter,” who said he was with the Federal Reserve Bank and that they had two government checks for Sylvie for her grant money. But he told her she needed to buy another eBay gift card to cover “check processing fees.” She did, texting the photos to Hunter. Hunter then texted her photos of her government grant checks.
Hunter then had Sylvie buy additional gift cards to cover “delivery fees,” “tracking number fees,” and “California state taxes.” She spent $2,000 on gift cards she provided to Hunter. Hunter promised all of this money, except the application fee, would be refunded to her, but it never was.
Hunter promised to have her grant checks delivered to her in person, but they never appeared. The money Sylvie sent was intended for her rent, car insurance, food and gas. She complained to eBay and her bank, but could not get any money out. Sylvie called BBB to file a complaint.
Sylvie called Irene and Adam to complain about being scammed, hoping to tie them up so they couldn’t scam other people. They were rude, showed no empathy and told her she wouldn’t get her money back.
Victoria, an assistant manager at a Kwik Stop in Nebraska, had a similar experience. In December 2018, Victoria got an email purporting to be from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It said she was selected from a group of 1,500 people to receive a $9,000 grant. She called the number provided and spoke to a man named Bill, who she said spoke with a thick accent and told her he’d moved to the U.S. from the Middle East. He told Victoria that to receive her grant, she had to pay a $200 fee. Bill told Victoria that $9,000 grant money would be directly deposited into her bank account. He also told her she had to pay the fee or she would be arrested. Victoria was frightened and provided her bank account information. She had two small children at home and did not want to go to jail.
Bill instructed her to drive to a local Walmart to buy a Green Dot MoneyPak. He stayed on the phone with her while she did this. He had her scratch off the number on the back of the card, take a photo of the numbers, and text it to him.
After she had paid the money, Bill told her she needed to pay another $150, promising it would be refunded to her later. Victoria did not have enough money. Bill told her to go to the bank, and he would stay on the phone. She explained the situation to a bank manager, who told her it was a fraud, and that this was the second time that week someone had come in with this type of scam. The bank manager put the scammer on the speaker phone and asked a few questions. The scammer got angry and cursed at them, then hung up. Victoria never received the supposed grant.
Other types of government impersonation
There are other types of scams that rely on the authority of the government to get money or information from victims, and inventive scammers are likely to try new approaches. For example, lottery scammers calling from Costa Rica have impersonated actual people at the FTC and other agencies in lottery scams (including the author of this study). Others impersonate Medicare in efforts to file bogus claims for durable medical equipment like back braces.
Red Flags: How to identify impostor scams
How can you spot and avoid someone impersonating a government agency?
- The IRS generally first contacts people by mail — not by phone — about unpaid taxes.
- Never provide your bank account or other personal information to anyone who calls you.
- Don’t pay by gift card. The IRS and other government agencies will not insist on payment using an iTunes card, gift card, prepaid debit card, money order, bitcoin or by sending cash.
- The IRS will never request personal or financial information by email, text, or any social media. Don’t click on links in emails or text messages.
- Social Security numbers are never “suspended.”
- Caller ID cannot be trusted to confirm that the source of the call is a government agency. Look up the phone number for the real agency and call to see if they are really trying to contact you — and why.
- The Social Security Administration will never threaten to arrest you because of an identity theft problem.
Key elements of government impostor scams
How do scammers know who to call? Lead lists.
Scammers buy lead lists of names, phone numbers, and other information about potential victims. This is not necessarily illegal, since there are legitimate uses for such leads. A quick internet search for “leads” shows hundreds, if not thousands, of sources that sell them. Sensitive personal information that is procured in data breaches is also sold in underground forums such as the dark web.
Many impostor victims report that the caller already had a great deal of personal information about them, sometimes including their Social Security numbers, which enhanced their credibility. In many cases, victims are asked to “confirm” personal information, suggesting the caller already has it. In reality, though, this may simply be an attempt to trick people into disclosing this information.
VoIP calls and robocalls are popular with scammers.
Recently there have been strong law enforcement efforts to stem the flood of calls from India and elsewhere, particularly by targeting those who make the calls possible.
Scammers place calls to victims through a VoIP system, meaning they make the calls over a broadband internet connection rather than over a traditional phone. If the call is sent from outside the U.S., these calls must go through a “gateway carrier” before distribution to the major phone company systems and then to phones. This applies to both direct calls as well as robocalls. Most of these calls have codes that disguise the actual caller ID information and trick the system into displaying almost any originating number the scammers desire. By using this “spoofing” process, government impostor calls can show the phone number of a real government agency. Finally, the telephone number needs to appear to be a U.S. telephone
number for U.S. consumers to call back, or for when victims “press 1” to talk to a live operator. Many gateway carriers have provided scammers with all of these services.
Recently there have been efforts to combat VoIP calls, including robocalls. In 2019, the FTC sued Canada-based VoIP service provider Globex and James Christiano for transmitting robocalls into the United States. In December 2019, the U.S. adopted the TRACED Act, which encourages the use of technology to combat robocalls and caller ID spoofing.
With help from the telecom industry, the FTC has been sending warning letters to gateway carriers in the U.S. alerting them that they can be legally liable for assisting and facilitating fraud. The FTC sent 19 such letters to U.S. VoIP providers in January 2020, another nine in March, and two more in April that came jointly from the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Since then, there has been a reduction in the volume of robocall complaints that the FTC receives.
The Justice Department filed two cases in January 2020 against gateway carriers that they alleged handled hundreds of millions of calls from India, many of them robocalls involving government impostors. Cases against Tollfree Deals and Global Voicecom, Inc. allege similar facts. Both companies not only allowed robocalls into the U.S., but also were involved in spoofing caller IDs and in providing phone numbers for victims to call back that appeared to be domestic.
In the Tollfree Deals case, the complaint alleges that, over a 23-day period in May and June 2019, the company transmitted 720 million calls into the U.S., including 143 million calls from one India-based operation alone. The callers claimed to be from Social Security, the IRS, and U.S. Customs and Immigration. Other calls were for tech support scams and loans that were supposedly pre-approved.
In the Global Voicecom case, the calls involved SSA, IRS and Treasury, USCIS, jury duty, tech support and calls supposedly from foreign governments, claiming problems with the immigration status or passport of people in the U.S.
Fake caller ID or caller ID spoofing
Many people now have caller ID, which is meant to let them know who is calling by displaying the phone number and sometimes the name of the caller. But scammers are able to display any information they want. There have been calls that pretended to be from Social Security, the Competition Bureau in Canada, or local police. The SSA has now worked with the telephone industry to prevent their numbers from being displayed on caller IDs.
Non-standard payment methods to scammers
There is no point in running a scam unless you can get money from victims. Most impostor scams get money through gift cards or stored value cards. At times, though, they have asked victims to do bank-to-bank wire transfers, use MoneyGram or Western Union, or even ask for payment in bitcoin. What these payment mechanisms have in common is that it is very difficult to stop the transaction after victims realize that they have been defrauded.
Gift cards: This is the government impostor’s favorite payment method. Scammers sometimes stay on the phone while victims drive to Walmart, Target or a pharmacy. After victims pay for the cards, the scammers tell them to read (or text a photo) of the codes on the back of the cards. Armed with this information, scammers can cash out the cards through a variety of websites. TIGTA also reports that many of the scammers use the gift cards to purchase phones or other electronics, which they then resell on online marketplaces. Both TIGTA and the SSA Inspector General (SSA IG) have been working with major retailers to educate them about scams and how to help victims that come in to buy these cards.
Stored value cards: Scammers sometimes use stored value cards such as those offered through Green Dot. The scammers have someone set up an online account, and the scammer has a physical card that can operate like an ATM card. Green Dot has a simple method to load more money onto these cards. Retail stores sell MoneyPaks in different denominations. Customers pay cash for these, which are simply pieces of cardboard, and the store enters the information into a computer system. Scammers then have victims scratch off the code on the card and read it to them. The scammers can then enter that information into their account online and then withdraw cash from ATM machines. Other companies offer stored value cards that operate essentially the same way.
Other payment methods: TIGTA says some scammers have victims send cash by Federal Express or UPS. Others open accounts at banks such as Bank of America, then ask victims to go to a local branch and deposit money into those accounts.
Mules/runners: Scammers need people in the U.S. or Canada to collect and launder the money sent by victims. They typically take the money out in cash, keep part of it as payment, and send the rest to India. Laundering money this way can be a complicated process. Law enforcement in the U.S. and Canada have successfully traced the money to Indian nationals in these countries and prosecuted them.
Call center expertise
Most government impostor scams claiming to be from the SSA, the IRS, U.S. Customs, jury duty, and Medicare appear to originate from call centers in India. As a previous BBB study demonstrates, India is also home to most tech support scams.
Why India? India is a very large country with an educated populace but a great deal of poverty. English speakers are common, and many large companies use legitimate call centers there to handle customer service calls from the U.S. and Canada. Therefore, the country already has a sizable workforce trained in telemarketing. The same scams hitting the U.S. and Canada are also common in the UK and Australia. The BBC has aired a video of the inside of a call center in India operating a tech support scam.
Law enforcement efforts to combat impostor scams
Law enforcement efforts in the U.S. and Canada
Prosecuting impostor scammers has been a priority for law enforcement. Many Indian nationals have been living in the U.S. and Canada, sometimes illegally, while working directly with scam call centers in India. Many of these scammers received and laundered money from victims.
TIGTA relates that 170 people in the U.S. have been charged in federal court over IRS impostor scams. BBB has been able to identify 91 people prosecuted to date in the United States. Most of those sentenced to date have received substantial sentences in federal court. Some face deportation when their prison term ends.
Some of these prosecutions have been the result of concentrated efforts and headed up in locations like the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta) and the Southern District of Texas (Houston). A sample of these include:
- October 2016: Indictments of 61 for IRS impersonation from India in Southern District of Texas
- July 20, 2018: 24 defendants sentenced in India-based call center scam in the Southern District of Texas
- September 7, 2018: 15 defendants and five India-based call centers indicted over IRS impersonation
- March 12, 2019: Three defendants and an India-based call center indicted in the Northern District of Georgia
Law enforcement efforts in India
Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the government of India has been able to stop the scammers. In several cases, the police there have taken part in raids on large call centers and arrested large numbers of people, but actual prosecutions are very rare. Corruption is clearly a problem. One IRS impersonator, with an interview posted on YouTube, asserts that the call centers receive warnings in advance about police raids.
U.S. and Canadian law enforcement have worked with law enforcers in India who have “busted” a number of call centers located there. These include:
- In October 2016, nine call centers running an IRS scam that employed more than 770 people in Mumbai.
- In February 2018, a call center in Pune making IRS calls.
- In August 2018, a call center in Bhayandar impersonating IRS officials.
- In October 2018, a call center in Noida scamming Canadians by impersonating the Canadian Revenue Agency.
- In December 2018, another call center in Noida impersonated SSA employees and arrested 126 people.
- Between December 2018 and March 2019, the RCMP worked with India to bust 40 call centers impersonating the Canada Revenue Agency.
Despite these efforts, there is little evidence that these scammers are being prosecuted in India. BBB has seen no signs that anyone has ever been extradited for prosecution.
A Justice Department official wrote an article about efforts to fight telemarketing fraud coming from India, saying:
To date, the United States government has not received any information concerning the investigation, arrest or prosecution by Indian authorities of 31 of the India-based defendants charged as part of the public indictment in this case for their alleged criminal conduct. The one and only defendant in this case known to have been prosecuted in India in relation to his involvement in similar Indian call center fraud, hailed in the Indian press as a “mastermind” of these schemes, was released from an Indian jail on bail after only 14 months of incarceration. See Arvind Walmiki, After 14 Months, Thane Call Centre Scam mastermind ‘Shaggy’ Granted Bail, HINDUSTAN TIMES (June 19, 2018).
Where to complain about impostor scams
IRS: The IRS advises people to fill out the “IRS Impersonation Scam” form on TIGTA’s website, tigta.gov, or call TIGTA at 1-800- 366-4484.
Social Security: SSA IG has its own online form to take complaints about frauds impersonating the SSA.
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre: In Canada, contact CAFC about all government impersonation scams at 1-888-495-8501 or online.
Federal Trade Commission: 877-FTC-Help or ftc.gov.
Local Television Station Hosts Candidate Debates
Local Republican candidates for Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters (I) and Blake Elsberry, along with GOP candidates for Chattooga County Probate Judge Teresa Pope and Gary Woods taped television debates last week that will begin airing today on SKY 21 TV.
The debates were held in the SKY 21 studio and featured questions submitted by the public and an out-of-town moderator.
According to SKY 21 TV’s schedule, the debates are airing today at 6 AM and again this evening at 6 PM.
Commissioner Jason Winters came in second place – by just two votes – in the June Republican Primary and is facing off against political newcomer Blake Elsberry. The winner of the runoff election will face Democratic candidate Jimmy Holbrook in November.
Gary Woods was the front-runner in a three-way race in the June Primary to see which Republican candidate would run for the Probate Judge’s office. Woods is facing off with Teresa Pope in the August 11th Republican Runoff Election. The winner of that race will be facing Independent Holley Strawn-Gilliland in the General Election in November.
Health Inspection Scores - Last Half Of July
Here are the latest health inspection scores for the last half of July from the Chattooga County Environmental Health Department:
- 9880 COMMERCE ST SUMMERVILLE, GA 30747
- Phone Number:
- Permit Type: FS
- Last Inspection Score: 96
- Last Inspection Date: 07-28-2020
LOS MAGUEY’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT
- 10020 COMMERCE ST SUMMERVILLE, GA 30747
- Phone Number:
- Permit Type: FS
- Last Inspection Score: 92
- Last Inspection Date: 07-28-2020
- 11277 HIGHWAY 27 SUMMERVILLE, GA 30747
- Phone Number:
- Permit Type: FS
- Last Inspection Score: 95
Should you ever have any complaint with any food service or tourist accommodation that operates in Chattooga County, you can register that complaint by calling the Chattooga County Environmental Health Department at 706-857-3377.
NGEMC Late Fees & Disconnections - UPDATE
North Georgia EMC members in Chattooga County have been under a “grace period” during the COVID-19 pandemic for late fees and disconnections; but you might want to be aware of some important dates concerning your power bill.
All late fees were suspended back in April, meaning that even if you were late paying your bill, you weren’t being charged any extra. The end of the late fee suspension was on August 1st.
Also, if you are behind on your power bill and subject to disconnection, you haven’t had to worry about your power being shut off so far during the pandemic. According North Georgia EMC, the deadline for disconnection suspensions is coming up on August 12th.
So if you are behind on your North Georgia EMC bill, what should you do? North Georgia EMC is encouraging you to reach out to them now. They say that their member services team will work with you with extended payment plans and offer solutions moving forward. You can contact the North Georgia EMC office in Trion at 706-734-7341.
All North Georgia EMC lobbies are closed at this time, including the one in Trion; but the drive-through windows are open at all locations.
Early Voting For Runoff Election Brisk
Over one thousand voters in Chattooga County have already voted in the August 11th Republican Runoff election, according to the latest numbers from the Chattooga County Registrars Office.
Voters were able to vote this past Saturday in the runoff election, and poll workers at the Registrars Office say that 77 people took advantage of Saturday voting. In all, 1077 people have already cast their ballots in the election.
Voters are deciding in two hotly-contested local races and casting their ballots to see who the Republican nominee will be for the 14th Congressional District of Georgia.
Early voting will continue through Friday of this week leading up to the runoff election next Tuesday. All early voting takes place at the Registrars Office on Commerce Street in Summerville. Be sure to bring a picture I.D. when you come to vote.
Accident Takes The Life Of Chattooga County Man
A fatal crash between a vehicle and motorcycle on Sunday afternoon took the life of a forty-one-year-old Chattooga County man. The accident happened near the entrance to Little Caesar’s Pizza on Highway 27 in Summerville. According to reports, the victim passed away en route to Floyd Medical Center. WZQZ News will have more information when a report is released by law enforcement.
Judge Payne's Family Updates His Condition
Chattooga County Probate Judge Jon Payne remains hospitalized in Rome after contracting COVID-19. Judge Payne’s family contacted WZQZ News on Sunday afternoon to release this statement:
Jon is resting in a Floyd County hospital. He is experiencing symptoms of the Corona Virus and is currently receiving breathing treatments as well as other C-19 treatments.
We would like to thank all that are praying and concerned for Jon.
Thanks from our whole family
All of us at WZQZ are praying for Judge Payne’s full recovery.
Constitutional Amendment Would Allow Georgia Residents To Sue The State
When voters go to the polls in November, they will be deciding several important Federal, state and local races, but they will also be faced with the decision to approve a constitutional amendment that would allow Georgia residents to sue the state in superior court.
Voters will decide if the sovereign immunity protection for city, county and state governments can be waived.
There are certain exceptions in place, but the restrictions are difficult to overcome. Lawmakers have been trying to address the issue for several years, following a case against the Georgia Department of Natural Resources where the state’s high court confirmed the immunity.
Hospitals Continue To See Increase In COVID-19 Cases
Many Georgia hospitals are groaning under the assault of COVID-19 infections, with total hospitalizations from the respiratory illness continuing to rise.
Many Georgia hospitals reported no critical care beds available. Nine reported no general inpatient beds, including Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center and Fairview Park Hospital in Dublin, according to data obtained by The Associated Press from the Department of Public Health.
Statewide , 88% of critical care beds were in use, tying the highest level since the pandemic began. Not all critical care patients have COVID-19, however. Overall, patients with the respiratory illness were filling 3,157 of Georgia’s more than 21,000 hospital beds.
Numbers as of Saturday evening show that Chattooga County is now reporting 187 cases, with 94 of those in the past two weeks. There have been two deaths and five hospitalizations.
2020-21 GA Hunting Regulations Available
This guide provides important information on season dates, bag limits, hunting licenses, wildlife management areas (WMAs), quota hunts, youth opportunities and much more.
View the guide (or download) online at http://www.eregulations.com/georgia/hunting/ or on the Go Outdoors Georgia app. Pick up a printed copy at Wildlife Resources Division offices and license vendors throughout Georgia.
Some of the major changes to the hunting regulations this year include:
- Alligator Hunts: Quota-selected hunters are no longer sent a plastic tag in the mail, nor required to bring the harvested alligator to a WRD Game Management office for a CITES tag. Hunters must report the harvest through Georgia Game Check system with 24 hours of harvest.
- Electric bicycles (750 watts or less) may be used the same as traditional bicycles on WMAs. Cycles greater than 750 watts are restricted to roads open for vehicular access.
- Game Check: All harvested alligators, deer, and turkey must be reported through the Georgia Game Check system within 24 hours of harvest.
- New Public Hunting Opportunities: Canoochee Sandhills WMA (Bulloch and Bryan counties); Ceylon WMA (Camden County); Sansavilla WMA-Wire Road Tract (Wayne County).
- Waterfowl Changes: Active duty military and veterans may hunt during the Special Opportunity Waterfowl Season (Nov. 14–15, 2020); bag limit for scaup is reduced to 1 bird; special restrictions for Lake Allatoona.
Members of the Board of Natural Resources enact hunting regulations by acting on recommendations made by the Division’s professional wildlife biologists. Georgia’s game and fish laws are enacted by the elected members of the General Assembly.
Georgia Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) offer not only hunting opportunities, but also plenty of places where you can get outside and hike, fish, camp or wildlife watch (depending on the WMA). Be sure to stay safe and follow state public health guidelines, such as washing your hands (or using sanitizer) throughout the day. If in areas that have more people than your family group (such as a boat dock or trailhead), be sure to wear a mask and social distance.
For more information on hunting in Georgia hunting, visit https://georgiawildlife.com/hunting/hunter-resources or contact a local Wildlife Resources Division office (http://georgiawildlife.com/about/contact).
Sheriff Shifting Employees To Cover Jail
Fifteen employees with the Chattooga County Sheriff’s Office have tested positive or shown symptoms of COVID-19 and Sheriff Mark Schrader says that he his using manpower from the rest of his department to cover the shortages in workers.
Last week the sheriff, patrol deputies, investigators and narcotics agents all took turns manning the jail to take up the slack. Sheriff Schrader, who started his career under Sheriff Ralph Kellett as a jailer, said that it had been quite a few years since he was working overnight in the jail.
The sheriff says that so far, he has not had to call in any outside help. Schrader said that neighboring law enforcement agencies have offered help if necessary.
The sheriff said, “Our deputies and employees have been 100% supportive of filling in those positions and I am extremely proud of the way they have all stepped up to help.”
Georgia Governor Extends Public Health State Of Emergency
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed two executive orders extending the Public Health State of Emergency and existing COVID-19 safety measures, late Friday.
The move extends the Public Health State of Emergency through September 10th… allowing for enhanced coordination across government and the private sector for supply procurement, comprehensive testing, and healthcare capacity.
Orders require social distancing, ban gatherings of more than fifty people unless there is six feet between each person, outline mandatory criteria for businesses, and require sheltering in place for those living in long-term care facilities and the medically fragile, through September 15th.
Georgia Power Launches New Customer-Connected Solar Program
Georgia Power continues to grow renewable energy in Georgia through its new Customer-Connected Solar Program (CCSP), a 25-megawatt (MW) Distributed Generation customer-sited program. Working with the Georgia Public Service Commission on the program design, the Commissioners gave their approval in May 2020.
“We are excited to offer programs that help renewable energy grow and thrive in Georgia,” said Wilson Mallard, director of Renewable Development for Georgia Power. “This program will provide a new renewable energy option for participating customers, while also benefitting all of our customers by continuing to expand our state’s diverse energy generation resources.”
Georgia Power will purchase 100% of the solar energy generated by directly paying the customer. Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) will be retired by Georgia Power on behalf of participating customers, allowing the customer to claim the renewable benefits of the local solar energy.
The CCSP program will accept applications on a first-come, first-served basis until the 25 MW AC portfolio is filled, or until January 2022, whichever comes first. Customers can choose agreement terms between 10 and 30 years and projects can be sized from 1 kW up to 3 MW (AC). The average price ranges from 4.3-6.7 cents/kWh. Find other important details about Georgia Power’s new Customer-Connected Solar Program at www.GeorgiaPower.com/
Community Solar and Simple Solar Programs
The company also encourages customers who are not eligible to participate in CCSP to consider additional renewable programs such as Georgia Power Community Solar and Simple Solar. Community Solar gives residential customers who subscribe the opportunity to earn an energy credit on their bill based on actual solar energy production at Georgia Power’s Community Solar facilities. The Simple Solar program is a solar REC purchase program available to all customers that allow participants to claim solar benefits for either 50 percent or 100 percent of their energy usage.
Renewable Energy Growth
Through programs and projects developed in coordination with the PSC, Georgia Power is committed to maintaining a diverse generation portfolio while providing all customers with renewable energy options. With more than 1,625 MW* of solar capacity currently online, the company continues to have the most extensive voluntary renewable portfolio in the nation. Through continued development of CCSP, as well as other solar projects and programs, Georgia Power expects to add up to 1,400 MW* of additional renewable capacity by the end of 2021.
Pandemic EBT Program Now Open
Chattooga County DFCS Director Kim Ballard-Humphrey tells WZQZ News that families the normally receive free or reduced lunch that are SNAP recipients can receive additional money of over $250 per child under the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program.
Ms. Humphrey says some folks in our county should have received information about the benefits and we will also have some folks who will need to apply for these benefits.
Families who have children who were receiving free or reduced lunch for the 2019-2020 school year and were receiving in March 2020 should qualify to receive $256.50 per child. If they are currently SNAP recipients, this additional allotment due to the pandemic, should automatically be added to their EBT card.
If the family does not receive SNAP and they qualify, they will need to apply for the additional benefits.
The website to apply is https://dfcs.georgia.gov/pandemic-electronic-benefit-transfer .
These applications will be accepted for the next 60 days. Those applying will need the GTID number of the student(s) in which they are applying which should be able to be found on their student portal/parent portal. If the applicant cannot locate this number, they will need to contact the school to get it.
Applicants need to ensure that the application is filled out in full before submitting as this will reduce any possible delays in getting the benefits.
Trion Veterans Committee Meeting
The Town of Trion’s Veterans Committee will have a meeting in the Town Hall Conference Room on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 at 6:00p.m.
Arrest Report - Friday - July 31, 2020
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation at the Chattooga County Jail, we are experiencing delays in getting the daily arrest reports. This is the report for yesterday, Friday, July 31, 2020:
GSP Hospitality (Burger King) Awards Scholarships To Chattooga Students
GPS Hospitality, a rapidly growing franchisee with nearly 400 BURGER KING restaurants, is pleased to announce it will award BURGER KING McLAMORE Foundation scholarships to 247 students in 13 states this graduation season – including students in Chattooga County. Since 2013, GPS Hospitality has supported 1,119 scholars.
Scholarships are awarded to graduating high school seniors based on their grade point average and the impact the students have on their schools and communities through volunteerism and work experience.
BURGER KING employees and their family members pursuing a traditional post-secondary education or enrichment programs are also eligible to apply. This year’s 247 winners include 39 employees and 208 seniors in GPS Hospitality’s local communities. BURGER KING McLAMORE Foundation scholarships are a community effort as they are funded completely through guest donations at local restaurants.
The BURGER KING Scholars selected for the 2020 program from Chattooga County include:
- ALLISON BARNES, CHATTOOGA HIGH SCHOOL
- TYMERIA BOND, CHATTOOGA HIGH SCHOOL
- MIA CRIDER, CHATTOOGA HIGH SCHOOL
- NATHAN DOOLEY, CHATTOOGA HIGH SCHOOL
“We are proud to award these scholarships in partnership with the McLAMORE Foundation,” said Tom Garrett, CEO of GPS Hospitality. “These scholarships are a testament not only to the determination of these deserving students but also the generosity of our guests and the hard work by our team members, who executed successful in-restaurant campaigns to fund the awards.”
In 2019, GPS Hospitality restaurants participated in both the spring and fall McLAMORE Foundation fundraisers which generated $247,000 from $1 donations. Founded in 2000, the Foundation has awarded more than $40 million in scholarships to over 36,000 students. In 2020, GPS Hospitality’s nearly 250 BURGER KING℠ Scholars will receive $1,000 scholarships to further their educational advancement.
The BURGER KING Scholars program is the BURGER KING McLAMORE Foundation’s flagship program, established to memorialize James W. McLamore, BURGER KING brand’s co-founder. James W. McLamore valued education, integrity, good citizenship, and entrepreneurial spirit. These same values are central to the BURGER KING℠ McLamore Foundation, which continues to build on his commitment to education.
For more information on the program, including instructions for 2021 scholarship applications, please visit https://bk-scholars.com/