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O.C. Stonestreet

On a recent Friday night Judy and I were having dinner in a local restaurant, when a call on her cell phone interrupted her meal. The place was full; people were talking, dishes, glasses and silverware were clinking and clanking and Mexican music was playing from overhead speakers. Judy had trouble hearing the caller. She explained that she was in a restaurant and the caller said he would call again the next morning. Judy said that would be fine and ended the call.

“So, who was that?” I asked, while chewing on some chicken.

“Not sure,” she said, “but he said he’d call me tomorrow.”

“Right,” I said, as I turned my attention back to my plate and Judy returned her attention to her taco, rice and refried beans.

On Saturday morning the fellow called again. Despite occasional bursts of static and an unidentifiable foreign accent, the caller was informing Judy that she —make that “ we” — had won millions of dollars through a contest sponsored by the good folks at Walmart.

Right.

At first, Judy was told she had won $2.5 million, but on a subsequent call we were informed it was more like $30 million! Judy later told me that she did vaguely remember filling out a registration card some time ago at our local Walmart for some free groceries, lending credence to the unexpected call.

We were hesitant to believe our good fortune. In the past, I once won a three-day stay for us at Myrtle Beach — honest, it snowed while we were there — and once upon a time I won a seriously ugly table lamp in a raffle; it was so ugly the county landfill wouldn’t take it. For the record, neither of us invest in lottery tickets, but if you do, good luck to you.

Back to the mystery caller on the cellphone. All the fellow wanted was our bank account number and a very reasonable $399.95 for a “transfer fee” and we would soon get our multi-millions that would be arriving in a package. Hmmmm. Let’s see, we pay him $400 and we get $30 million.

Right.

Oddly, we had difficulty getting any information from our caller, who claimed to be an attorney in New York City. You would think an attorney would not have any trouble giving us his name, the name of his firm, his telephone number and other such basic information.

Graciously, my wife, who is a retired paramedic who truly cares (as do I) for those less fortunate than ourselves, told the caller that we really didn’t need the money and to please give it to people more in need than us, people who could not afford dinner out in such a fine Statesville restaurant as we had dined in Friday night.

Even so, Judy’s cellphone rang 14 more times during the day, the caller’s return number being “restricted” from view. She finally resorted to blocking the call. Had I been the mystery caller, I would have looked elsewhere for a victim than my savvy wife. As it was, Judy went to the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office and spoke with a deputy. After years of working as an paramedic, she knows a number of the officers on a first-name basis.

As you might have expected, several Iredell County residents have received similar calls lately and have reported same to the sheriff’s office. The deputy I spoke to told me the office typically received one or two complaints about this kind of thing per day, and those are just from the citizens who are taking the time to officially make a complaint.

Alas! The bottom line is that I guess you will not be seeing me cruise around in my new silver Range Rover or see Judy glide by in her brand-new, candy-apple-red Mercedes convertible, but I hope if you see us in the same cars we have been driving for years, you will still give us a wave and think what fine people we are for helping so many people with our unneeded millions.

Right.

According to the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, there are some easy “do’s” and some “don’ts” to avoid scams:

1. Do report such “too good to be true” scams to local law enforcement.

2. Do not carry your Social Security card on your person.

3. Pick up new checks at the bank, rather than have them mailed to you.

4. Don’t ever give out personal identity information over the phone, such as your full name, spouse’s full name, age.

5. Don’t ever give an unknown caller your bank account numbers or Social Security number.

6. Always shred any paper work you are discarding that has personal or financial information on it, such as canceled checks, bank statements, credit card bills, medical information, etc. No shredder? Use scissors.

7. Go to www.hoax-slayer.com for tips on securing your identity.

The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office will be happy to give a free program on scams currently being used in Iredell County to your civic, church or other group. It also has hand-outs with lots more tips.

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