Police: Scammers getting more creative

PARKERSBURG – While the way people make donations has taken a change, scammers have also began to target people with a more creative approach.

Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department said police were aware of a scam using Williamstown Bank as the focus. He said the numbers appear to come back to those commonly used in widespread scams.

“It appears that the perpetrators are not in this area as is the case with most scams, but we continue to look into the matter,” he said.

Collins said people should call their bank to speak with someone directly if a scamming incident occurs. Police advise residents to never provide information to people over the phone or by email.

The scam coming from Williamstown Bank was detected last weekend. Area residents sent out a message via a Facebook post to inform others of the incident. The Facebook post read that people were receiving text messages stating their account had been deactivated. The text message gave a random four digit card number and most calls are saying it is coming from Williamstown Bank. When calling the number, they would give people a different number than the text came from, all it would say was “Please enter your 16-digit card number.”

Falling for the scam would have ended with the draining of a bank account.

Similar scams were also taking place in Wirt County.

An intended victim from Coolville on May 4 thwarted her would-be scammer.

“I may be old, but I’m not stupid,” she said.

A man who identified himself as David Alexander said she had won the Publishers Clearinghouse and gave her instructions on how to claim the prize, which included obtaining a $500 gift card from Wal-Mart and waiting for a phone call. The man never left a phone number and the caller ID said it was an unknown number.

However, the 74-year-old woman contacted Publishers Clearinghouse and the sheriff’s department. Publishers Clearinghouse said it doesn’t operate that way and the sheriff’s department said it was a scam, she said.

The woman took her phone off the hook and when she put it back on, the man called.

“It wasn’t five minutes later that he called me saying he had been trying all day to get a hold of me,” she said.

The woman informed him that she contacted the authorities and Publishers Clearinghouse.

“He said why did I want to go ahead and do that,” the woman said.

Kim Couch, CCMC Foundation director, said the foundation has been lucky enough not to come in contact with scams. However, Couch said the way people in the community have been giving has changed since the hospital started the foundation.

“It’s not just one person to write a check (anymore),” she said. “It will continue to change how people are giving.”

Couch said with opportunities including the “Rooms That Rock 4 Chemo” donators have had many different ways to decide how to give back. If cancer is something they are passionate about, they can give in that area, she said, and if diabetes is of interest donators can give to that unit of the hospital.

The foundation and contributors have also made a large shift in pushing for the prevention of disease. Couch said one in every four children growing up in the state now will develop diabetes, according to statistics.

“Twenty-five years ago when the foundation was started they knew there’d be changes in health care,” Couch said. “I don’t think they ever imagined technology would change so fast.”

According to Giving USA, 65 percent of households give to charities. The average household contribution is around $2,000.

Two women have reportedly been in the Washington Bottom area falsely collecting donations for Wood County Habitat for Humanity, said Lisa Collins, a spokesman for the organization that builds homes for qualifying families.

Collins said she first learned of the scam on Friday while speaking with a friend who said her husband errantly gave a woman a donation for Habitat. The incident occurred last Monday.

That is not how Habitat fundraises, she said.

“We do not send anyone door-to-door ever,” she said.

Police said the best advice for someone wanting to donate to a charity is to do so directly. If someone comes knocking on the door asking for money, get their information, ask them to leave and call the organization later.

People collecting money at the door, if legitimate, will not care if someone can verify the information, police said.

“If you can make one follow-up phone call before doing anything, you will prevent yourself from becoming a victim,” Sgt. Collins said.