Officials warn of scams

Jan. 24, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

Two men reportedly came to Daphine Gravely’s house on Cox Mill Road Wednesday telling her they would give her a special one-day-only deal to reseal her driveway.

According to a report Gravely filed with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the men asked for the money up front — which she gave them — and then simply poured motor oil, or a similar substance, on her driveway before leaving with their ill-gotten gains.

Capt. Jeff Johnson of the Sheriff’s Office said Thursday this was the first such scamming complaint he has heard of in about a year. He warned people to be on the lookout for this crew or others with a similar business pitch.

“We don’t like people going door to door, and especially selling paving,” Johnson said. “We don’t recommend paying anyone up front for work that hasn’t been done yet. That’s just not a good idea.”

It wasn’t reported how much the alleged scammers took from Gravely, who couldn’t be reached for comment. But according to the North Carolina Attorney General’s office, she and others who have fallen victim to these kinds of ruses should be extra careful in the future.

“Once you’ve been a victim, the criminals will repeatedly contact you in the hope of stealing even more money,” the Attorney General’s office wrote in a subsection of its consumer protection web page at ncdoj.gov/Consumer.aspx. “This is called ‘reloading.’ If you are or know a repeat victim, contact our office toll free at 1-877-5-NOSCAM (1-877 566-7226). We work with the N.C. Division of Aging to help these kinds of victims.”

The office’s No. 1 tip for consumers actually applies to the exact situation that Gravely reported: “Say no to high-pressure sales pitches,” the state warns. “If the offer is only good today, walk away.”

Johnson said the elderly are targeted more frequently than others because they tend to fall victim to such scams more often. But he said people of any age should feel free to call local law enforcement if they have suspicions. He and his officers would rather prevent scams than try to track down the scammers after the fact, Johnson said.

“We’ll be glad to come out and talk to these people to make sure they are who they say they are,” he said, adding that people should call the Sheriff’s Office main line, at (919) 775-5531, and not 911, which should only be used to report emergencies or crimes in progress.

Bob Joyce, president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, said there’s no group that compiles ratings and recommendations specifically for local businesses. He suggested that if people are suspicious of a business to check with the Better Business Bureau’s branch for Eastern North Carolina, or to see if the business is a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

“When a business joins the chamber, that’s a sign of commitment to community,” Joyce said. “And we feel that membership gives that stamp of approval — a sign that the business is willing to not only take part in the community, but also treat their customers with the respect that you would expect from a local hometown business.”

If that good customer service is lacking, however, Joyce said the chamber is happy to step in and sort things out.

“When I get a letter of complaint about a business, if it’s a chamber member, I send the letter to that business and offer to serve as an intermediary,” he said. “We have done that in the past, and in every single case, we have come to a solution.”