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Outsmarting Scammers: Tips From ZPD Chief Darryl Lawrence

Zachary Police Chief Darryl Lawrence

Scams and extortion attempts can be directed at anyone, but elders are especially vulnerable because scammers often take advantage of the fact that older people tend to have wide family networks. We spoke with City of Zachary Chief of Police Darryl Lawrence about how residents can avoid becoming victims of scams, and what they should do if they think they might have been had.

What are the most common scams you see?

Phone scams: Someone calls and threatens to send the police to your house unless you pay them money right away. They even tried it on me. They hung up quickly after I told them that seemed unlikely given my position. Other types of phone scams will ask you to “verify” information like your social security number or other sensitive information, but legitimate businesses and the IRS will never ask for your password or social security number over the phone. 

Gift card scams: A legitimate organization will never ask for gift cards as payment. These people can be threatening and aggressive, but take a breath and stay rational. Get the information, and then hang up and call the verified corporate number they claim to be representing. 

Email scams: Opening a malicious email can leave you vulnerable to someone stealing the passwords and credit card information stored on your account. Check the sender before opening an email. If it doesn’t look right, don’t open it! It also helps to update your passwords frequently and use difficult to guess passwords with a combination of symbols and numbers. 

What should someone do if they’ve given their information to a scammer?

The first step is to contact your bank and try to get payment stopped if you wrote a check, or put a hold if it was a debit transaction. Then, come talk to us and bring as much information about the scam as you can and all bank documents that show the transactions to file a police report. 

We’ve heard reports of AI voice cloning being used in scams around the country. Have you encountered any in Zachary?

No, thankfully. It’s scary though, the idea that someone could impersonate your or someone you love’s voice using Artificial Intelligence. That’s where people have to keep being vigilant. Make sure the phone number matches what you’d expect it to be. Text the person directly that the scammer is claiming needs help, while you’re on the phone with the scammer.

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