From what one High Country sheriff says are scams ranging from mild aggravations to physical threats and “anything in between,” phishing schemes are blanketing the country, including Watauga and Ashe counties, and the target is often senior citizens.

Fraudulent calls purporting to be from the IRS often top the list of complaints nationally, but a recent rash of Social Security Administration scams have now moved into the No. 1 spot. Within those scams, phony SSA callers attempt to obtain Social Security numbers, payments and other information — and are often successful. During the past 12 months, the Federal Trade Commission reported losses to such scams as reaching $19 million.

Watauga Sheriff Len Hagaman notes that this scam and others, such as callers supposedly from Publishers Clearing House or Law Enforcement Benevolence, are active in the High Country.

To counter the trend, his direct advice is solid: Never give out personal or financial information to an unknown person and use the Better Business Bureau and the chamber of commerce to vet an organization soliciting funds.

Scam calls should be reported to the sheriff’s office and if you have a question about your finances, it is best to address those with your financial establishment in person if possible.

And, for the best of all options, the WCSO offers this solution: “It’s often hard, but simply hang up.”

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