Lake County residents advised to watch for scams

LAKE COUNTY — Several local groups are trying to get the word out to Lake County residents, especially seniors, about how to recognize scams potentially targeted at them.

Part of these efforts included Undersheriff Dennis Robinson leading the Lake County Triad Association and the Triad Seniors and Law Enforcement Together Council, which consists of concerned members and agencies throughout the county, in a fun and informative Senior Enrichment Day at Webber Township Hall on May 2.

This event informed area seniors how they can stay safe in their homes and in the community. A nice luncheon, refreshments and some fun classes rounded out the day, while a number of speakers provided attendees with advice and information.

"We had people deliver on answers people have asked for during the year," said Robinson. "We had an attorney talk about wills and living trusts, the Health Department talk about health and nutrition and of course the Sheriff's Department was there to discuss frauds and scams."

Warning against scams has not been limited to Triad, though. Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 5315 member Dave Woodman has been warning seniors about the dangers of scams in Lake County as well.

Notably, he is warning others about a widespread scam which several Lake County residents have reported. This particular con involves receiving calls from people claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service who then say the resident has unpaid taxes. They will say the money needs to be paid immediately and might even call again, this time claiming to be the police or a repossession agency, to support the claims made in the first call.

Those running this scam have the means to fake caller ID services, have phony IRS identification numbers and may even have access to the last four digits of the resident's Social Security number.

"This group running the scam has already taken the people they've targeted for more than $1 million throughout Michigan," said Woodman. "They are targeting people in Lake County and I'm trying to help get the word out. I don't want to see people victimized by scams like this."

Woodman wants to remind people the IRS almost always uses mail, not the phone, as a means of communication, and residents should always double check with the real IRS before giving out any information or making any payments. They can call the IRS about such questions at (800) 829-1040.

"Telephone scams are the worst in rural areas like Lake County because they're just the easiest way to get to people here," explained Robinson. 'The IRS scam is probably the worst one our residents have to worry about. We have another where people will send out letters or phone calls claiming to be taking donations for the Sheriff's Department. We always send our notifications by mail and you can avoid problems by looking for Sheriff Hilts' signature in them if it's the real thing. Other scammers will call saying a family member is in jail and they are asking for bail money. Some scammers will even come in person. The most common of these are builders who will give you a free appraisal of your house, collect a down payment to fix it, and then you'll never hear from them again."

Robinson said if people are ever worried, they should call the Sheriff's Department and report suspicious activity like this. He urges residents to never allow others to rush them into rash decisions, particularly involving money. If there is a legitimate issue, they will understand your need to confirm their identity first.

"What you need to remember about scams is if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is," said Robinson.