'Tis the season for scamming, a Jamestown woman found out this week.
Carol Darling, 57, said she was called Tuesday by a man claiming to be with Microsoft Windows and that her computer was affected by a virus. Darling said her computer had been "acting up" lately, and after typing a few commands at behest of the caller, she was convinced her antivirus software had expired.
Believing the caller worked for Microsoft, Darling bought what she thought was new software.
"I gave him my credit card number and all the information he needed," she said. "I also gave him my cellphone number, which I didn't want to give him but he was persistent."
After returning from Erie, Pa., Darling said she was contacted by her credit card company regarding several suspicious cash withdrawals through Western Union. The would-be thief attempted to take out $133 and $144 with Darling's credit card, all the while having remote access to her computer.
"I have no idea what they were doing on the computer," Darling said, noting the male caller said he would be installing the updated antivirus software. "Thankfully, I had no personal information on that computer."
"It all boils down to not giving out your personal information. No company should ever call and ask for that kind of information over the phone."
Capt. Robert Samuelson,
Jamestown Police Department
Capt. Robert Samuelson of the Jamestown Police Department said the scams may change, but all have a common theme: a criminal attempting to dupe an unsuspecting person. Samuelson said the easiest way to avoid falling pray to a scam is to use caution when dealing with strangers over the phone.
Most importantly, he said, never reveal any personal information to someone claiming to work for a company over the phone, a method commonly used by scam artists.
"It all boils down to not giving out your personal information," Samuelson said. "No company should ever call and ask for that kind of information over the phone."
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace just last month warned residents of a scam involving classified ads in local newspapers. According to Gerace, scam artists are running classified ads seeking a personal assistant.
When prospective victims respond to the advertisement, the scammers get basic information, including name, address and date of birth.
Eventually, the scam artist will send a package containing U.S. postal money orders for an amount above what they have agreed to accept for a wage or payment. The prospective victim is instructed to deposit the money orders and send the balance via Western Union to a specified address.
However, police warn the practice is always a scam, as the money orders are counterfeit, while money sent to the scam artists via Western Union is untraceable.
"They may change their methods during the holidays, but people are getting scammed all year long," Gerace said Thursday. "People need to use extreme caution.
"People need to be aware and ask questions and do some background checks of their own; if it's too good to be true, it probably is."
Anyone with information regarding scams that may be occurring can contact the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office by calling 753-4231.
Meanwhile, Darling - who avoided any charges to her credit card - said she learned to trust her instincts as a result of the near-scamming.
"I'll stick to my beliefs to never give personal information over the phone," she said. "I was in a rush and I thought it was legit."