In light of recent scams that have victimized Mount Airy residents, Police Chief Dale Watson is urging extreme caution — especially concerning telephone calls from individuals claiming to be representatives of banks or other institutions.
That was the case in late December when Casey Michele Wilson of Westfield Road lost money from her bank account to an unknown suspect who had called her.
The man involved fraudulently identified himself as an employee of BB&T and was able to obtain information from Wilson in order to remove funds from her account.
Mount Airy police records do not list the exact sum involved, in keeping with a departmental policy, but Chief Watson says it was “substantial.”
He added that the incident in which the local woman was victimized highlights the need for anyone to be suspicious if receiving such a call. Financial institutions typically do not contact consumers by phone to solicit information that can be used to compromise one’s accounts.
“In this case, they had some identifiers unique to this individual,” the police chief said of the scam involving Wilson, “which made that (caller) seem legitimate.”
The perpetrator then used that leeway to obtain other details, which allowed the woman’s bank account to be accessed through a scamming technique commonly known as “phishing.”
This was a similar to a scam reported in June, in which several residents in the Mount Airy area received calls and emails from someone pretending to be affiliated with BB&T. Those contacted were told that their accounts had been compromised and the purported bank representative was trying to rectify the situation.
Then that person tried to obtain online log-in data, driver’s license numbers and other personal details to raid the consumers’ accounts.
While the latest incident also references BB&T, the police chief was quick to note that it should not be singled out regarding the problem.
“It’s something that has been prevalent recently,” he said, not just involving that bank, but “other entities as well.”
Watson said another practice occurring in conjunction with this involves the use of local cell or other phone numbers by scammers which show up on caller ID systems and appear to be coming from known sources and on the level.
The police chief emphasized that one should be skeptical anytime they get a call seeking sensitive information. “Do your due diligence and check it out,” he said.
If a local bank is involved, for example, pay a personal visit to it and determine if there really is a problem with an account, he advises.
“Just always be diligent — always.”
But under no circumstances should someone ever give out unique identifying information over the phone. “Because you never know who you are speaking with,” Watson said.
Another case surfacing locally, last Tuesday, involved a fraud/identity theft incident in which Clara Hensley was victimized at her home on Hunter Drive, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
An unknown suspect scammed Hensley out of personal information, with police records not indicating if any financial repercussions resulted.