By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
ANCHOR LAKE —
A stay-at-home mom was aghast at the aggressiveness of a phone telemarketer who tried to get her involved in a scheme in which, he said, she had already won a million dollars and a car, so she went to the police for help.
But the brazen promoter called her on her cell phone while she was at the police department, and continued to try and hook her into a scheme. She let him talk to the police, which he agreed to.
And the police told him to leave her alone and stop bothering her, to take her off their calling list. They evidently did. She has not had any other calls from them since going to the police. She does not know how they got her cell phone number.
But others, say officials familiar with how telemarketer scam artists work, are not so fortunate, and lose hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to the telephone crooks, who especially prey on the elderly.
“They told me I had won $1 million and a Mercedez-Benz, and they would be by with the prizes, and I would be on TV. All I needed to do was go purchase a cash card for $225 and give them the card number. That’s all they needed, and the prizes would be mine. The charge was to cover taxes on the promotion,” she said a man, identifying himself as John Cooper with a nationally recognized clearing house, told her.
“I am going public with this, because I believe they are calling a lot of people in the Picayune and Poplarville areas and trying to dupe them,” said Sarah Bonvillian, who lives on Anchor Lake Road.
“They told me I was the second winner in this area,” she said.
The man who said his name was John Cooper gave Bonvillian two numbers to contact him.
When the Item tried to call the numbers, one had been disconnected and was identified as a temporary number, and there was no answer when the second number was called.
But officials cautioned any resident not to engage anyone over the telephone in any kind of promotion or deal that involves the exchange of money. Most all encounters are scams, and when the perpetrators get the money, they disappear and are never heard from again.
Residents can also have their names placed on a state no-call list, and telemarketers can be fined heavily for calling a listed number.
However, information released by the Mississippi Public Service Commission said that being on the list does not guarantee that a person won’t get any telemarketing calls. The list does not include cell phones. Only land-based, nonbusiness numbers are placed on the list.
Residents can get on the list by going on-line at www.psc.state.ms.us, and clicking on “Report a telemarketer call.”
The site will tell you how to get on the no-call list and other information that you might need to know in dealing with telephone scam artists.