Stimulus checks, tax refunds and other immediate financial assets are welcome news for many Watauga County families right now. But, they’re also welcome by scammers working to separate individuals from their newly gained funds — and local law enforcement says we’re seeing an escalation of this in the High Country today.

Many financial scams prey on the elderly, but we’re all susceptible. Most of us have received spoof phone calls, calls reporting to be from a local number but actually originating from some unknown source. One active ploy involving this has already cost several local people thousands of dollars — money that is unlikely to ever be recovered.

Some people in the High Country are receiving phone calls that appear to be from local law enforcement agencies. Unsuspecting individuals, thinking the calls are legitimate, are told that they must pay a fine they owe to keep from getting arrested. It’s only after they send money to a fake “officer” and contact real law agencies do they realize they’ve been scammed.

In the current scheme, the sheriff’s department reminds us that officers never ask for money associated with a bond, civil or criminal matter. Those payments are processed through the clerk of the court. Their advice if you receive such a call: Simply hang up the phone. And, if you’re not sure whether a call was legitimate, call the supposed source yourself from a trusted phone number … not the number captured by your phone.

The old adage has stuck around because it’s true: If it sounds too good — or bad, in this case — to be true … it is.

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