Resident stands up to phone scam

Published 12:08am Friday, December 20, 2013

NATCHEZ Tired of those who seek to bilk vulnerable residents out of their money, Theresa Graves did her best to turn the tables on a phone scammer this week.

The Natchez resident said she received a call Monday from a man with an Indian accent claiming he was in Las Vegas, informing her she won $250 million. The catch was she needed to send $250 on a pre-paid green dot card from Walmart in order to collect the funds.

“The reason I had to pay up front was for tax purposes,” Graves said. “I told him this was a scam, and no real prize would ask for money up front.”

Graves said the man on the other end of the phone stressed he was a Christian and would never be part of a scam. Graves played along with the story initially, simply telling the caller she wanted the prize but had no way of coming up with the up-front money.

“When I kept insisting I didn’t have the money, he started getting a little rougher and asking if I knew (rapper) Biggie Smalls,” Graves said. “He said the person who killed Biggie Smalls lives right around the corner, and he could have him come and take care of me.”

Graves said the caller eventually hung up with her, but she continued to call him back.

“Of course, he was getting aggravated because he was saying, ‘you are wasting my time,’” she said. “I was trying to keep him on the line so he wouldn’t scam others.”

Graves said the scammer’s phone number was 876-791-1655.

A call to the number Thursday found it disconnected.

The 876 area code originates from Jamaica, which does not surprise Adams County Sheriff’s Office administrative officer Cal Green.

“A lot of the people that call are not even here in the United States,” Green said. “We have a large problem with people calling from Jamaica. It’s pretty hard to prosecute somebody in Jamaica. You would have to be able to narrow it down to one specific person or a specific organization, which is just about impossible without the assistance of Interpol and a lot more agencies than what we have right here.”

Green said she and other law enforcement officers constantly preach the message that legitimate organizations do not require an up-front payment to release winnings.

However, Green says reports of the scam come in “fairly often,” along with those who fall victim to it, who are often elderly residents.

“Everybody wants something to believe in, they want to have their day in the sun, they want to have their 15 minutes of fame,” Green said. “I wish I could get it through to everybody that it doesn’t cost you anything if you have won. If you have won this money, it shouldn’t cost you a penny to collect it.

“Some people, if they have lost a significant amount of money, we refer them to the attorney general’s office cyber crimes unit. Unfortunately, that is about the best we can do for them.”