The West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office is warning residents about a nationwide telephone scam that is occurring locally and more frequently.

In recent weeks, Sheriff Austin Daniel’s office has received complaints from residents who have received phone calls that appear to be coming directly from a government official or law enforcement agency, Erin Foster, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, said.

Posing as a federal official is a felony offense and law enforcement agencies are working together to stop this crime, Foster said.

“Other scams are targeting grandparents. The caller poses as the grandchild in desperate need of money and asks the grandparent to send money through a money transfer or wire service such as Western Union,” Foster said. “Many people have felt threatened enough by the calls to report them to us, which is the recommended course of action.” Reporting the calls will assist the Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in investigating the matter.

“We caution residents to never give out personal or financial information over the phone,” said Col. Randy Metz, West Feliciana Sheriff’s Office. “If you get a call from someone you don’t know who is trying to sell you something you haven’t planned to buy, hang up. If they pressure you about giving up personal information like your credit card number or Social Security number, be aware that it’s likely a scam and report it immediately.”

The Sheriff’s Office offers questions residents can ask to help prevent a scam:

Who is calling and why? Telemarketers must identify that they are making a sales call and identify themselves or the company they are representing and what they’re selling before making a pitch. If none of this information is given, thank them for the call and simply hang up, the Sheriff’s Office advises.

What’s the hurry? Fast talkers who use high-pressure tactics could be hiding something. Resist the pressure to make a fast decision. “If you feel you are being pressured to make a decision before you have the time to ensure the call or seller is legitimate, you should be very suspicious,” Metz said.

If you’ve won something, why are you being asked to pay for it? If there are fees to redeem a prize or gift, you have not won. “Free is free. If you have to pay for something, it’s a purchase, not a gift or prize,” Metz said. “You should never have to pay handling charges, service fees or any other kind of charges up front to receive a prize. This is a sure sign of a scam.” Taxes on gifts or monetary awards are paid directly to the IRS along with annual tax returns.

Why are you being asked to confirm your account information? Some scammers already have your billing information before they call you. By convincing you to say “OK,” scammers can claim you approved the charge on your credit or debit card. “That’s one of the biggest tricks scammers use,” Metz said.

Keep all credit and debit card, checking account and Social Security numbers and information to yourself, the Sheriff’s Office advises.

Anyone who thinks they have been the victim of a telephone or telemarketing scam is urged to call the Sheriff’s Office at (225) 784-3136.

“The more information we can gather, the better we can investigate and stop this criminal activity from happening to you,” Metz said.