DENHAM SPRINGS — After becoming a victim of fraud 20 years ago and coming close to becoming a victim again three years ago, Marlene Weekley-Hurst took matters — and her safety — into her own hands.
Weekley-Hurst and about a dozen people showed up Thursday at the Denham Springs-Walker Branch of the Livingston Parish Library to learn how they can protect themselves from becoming a victim of cybercrimes, financial crimes and crimes against the elderly.
Earlier this week, Weekley-Hurst’s husband, George, was approached by a roofer interested in repairing their roof. Weekley-Hurst said neither of them had called a roofer.
“We’ve been having a lot of people in the neighborhood (trying to sell stuff),” Weekley-Hurst said. “It’s worrying me.”
The scene — scams, fraud and theft — are becoming all too familiar throughout Livingston Parish, said sheriff’s detective Jeff Beatty, adding that his office receives complaints from at least three to four Livingston Parish residents per week who lose money to scams.
Beatty said the crimes — including financial crimes against the elderly, such as those who fall victim to promises of prizes from sweepstakes, forgery and Internet fraud — occur in Livingston Parish.
Beatty warned residents about schemes and scams and provided residents with warning signs. He told residents that if someone approaches their home trying to sell merchandise or services, simply ask them to leave. If they don’t, call the Sheriff’s Office, Beatty said.
For example, Beatty said, just about every spring, college students flood area neighborhoods selling magazines. Beatty said while often the business is legitimate, sometimes students are simply interested in raising money for spring break.
He told residents that if a contractor approaches them offering to fix their roof, pave their driveway or perform other services, wait until the work is complete before paying them and check to make sure the company is licensed.
Denise Sibley also warned those attending the seminar about an incident that happened to a friend. The friend agreed to have a crew pave his driveway for just $100. Instead of paving the driveway, the crew left the area topped with tar that, Sibley said, never dried. She said her friend had already paid the crew the money to pave the driveway.
Throughout his presentation, Beatty warned residents about prizes and sweepstakes; investments; charitable contributions; home and automobile repairs; loans and mortgages; health, funeral and life insurance; remedies; travel; confidence games; telemarketing; mail fraud; and face-to-face contact.
He provided tips for avoiding the scams.
“The Sheriff’s Office is getting more and more cybercrimes,” Beatty warned. “Everyone has a social media (account) and with that comes many crimes and complaints.”
When dealing with the Internet or any other offer, Beatty abides by the old adage: “If something sounds too good to be true, then it is,” he said.
He said the warning signs of Internet scams are evident. He said those running the scam want victims to react immediately and wire money, or sometimes they threaten the individual if the victim doesn’t comply with demands.
He suggested residents register their phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry to make it more difficult for criminals to reach them by phone.
In addition to working for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, Beatty is also on the U.S. Secret Service financial task force. The advanced crime scene investigator is assigned to handle all financial crimes for the Sheriff’s Office.
Those who have been a victim of fraud may call the Sheriff’s Office at (225) 686-2241.
The program will start at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Albany-Springfield Library, 26941 La. 43, Hammond.
For information, call (225) 567-1441.