LPSO: Beware of Scams involving Payments Requested in Gift Cards or Cash by Mail in Books

Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre is reminding residents to familiarize themselves with signs of phone scams to avoid becoming a victim. There have been reports of two specific scams recently plaguing residents. One scam involves purchasing store gift cards as payment, and the other involves sending cash by mail in books.

While scams may take on many different forms, they most commonly take the form of someone asking for immediate payment. It could be to pay bail money for a jailed relative or asking you to send money to collect a larger prize. In some cases, they even claim they’ll issue a warrant for your arrest if they do not receive payment. At that point, they’ll ask the victim to purchase either a pre-paid debit card or specific store gift cards and provide the card information as payment.

In the cash-in-book scam, a scammer contacts a resident claiming to money is owed. In some cases it could be a government agency such as the Social Security Administration, and in others it was a company claiming to have prize money. The scammer asks the victim to confirm credit card information for a monetary credit to be placed on their account. Once the victim provides the information, the scammer posts a credit for thousands of dollars more than what was due. The scammer then pleads with the victim to prevent him from getting fired by asking the victim to send the overage in cash placed within the pages of a book and ship it to an address. The scammer later removes the credit from the account, and the address is typically found to be a vacant or abandoned property used temporarily by the scammer.

In recent cases, three Lafourche residents lost over $100,000 combined in this manner by placing cash in books and shipping them. Detectives were able to track and recover a combined total of $12,000 in two of the cases.

“While the scams take on many different forms, they typically involve a con artist trying to prey on people’s generosity, especially the elderly,” said Sheriff Webre. “Anyone demanding immediate payment, demanding payment in the form of a store gift card or asking for cash to be sent by mail is a strong sign of a scam.”

If you believe you’ve encountered a scam phone call, hang up the phone and block the number. You can also download smartphone apps which help identify scam or spam calls. If you believe the call may be legitimate, ask for information from the caller such as the caller’s name and the company. Then search for the company on the Internet or in a phone book and find a contact number or email address. You can also call 4-1-1 to find a local number. If you believe the caller truly is a family member in distress, try calling that family member’s phone or another relative to verify the information.

If you lose money in a scam or receive threats of physical harm or violence, you should report it to the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office at (985) 532-2808. “If you believe a call may be legitimate but you have trouble validating the origin of the request, please contact us,” said Sheriff Webre. “We would be happy to assist you to ensure you do not become the next scam victim because once money is sent, it is nearly impossible to track down. Thankfully, our investigators were able to recover some of the funds from these cases.”