- Make sure vehicles are locked.
- Do not leave anything of significant value in a vehicle (i.e. packages, purses, CDs, or money)
- Use external lights
- Be alert for any suspicous vehicles or persons
- Be a good neighbor
South Carolina Crime stoppers 1-888-CRIME-SC
This hotline is available in English and Spanish, and you may be anonymous if you wish.
The following Crime Watch articles were written by Captain Dale Kittles of the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office
Click on one of the links below to be taken directly to a specific topic.
Safety experts agree that the best way to deal with crime in the home is to take every step possible to prevent it from happening to you. Every person should know – at the very least – basic yet important crime prevention tips that will keep you and your family more safe and secure.As explained in greater detail in this section, law enforcement and security experts will tell you from years of statistics and experience – criminals will almost always look for the easiest possible targets. While no one can be guarantee 100% that no one will break into your home, these tips will definitely reduce the likelihood significantly.
Read through the tips and advice of experts in how to burglar proof your home to avoid being the victim of a robbery or theft. The information here about basic crime prevention techniques will be very effective in making your home unappealing to any burglar. For example- by doing a few simple things such as keeping exterior lights on at night, making sure there aren’t tall bushes that someone can hide behind, keeping all of your doors locked and installing safety windows, you can turn your house from a target into something a predator will not want to even attempt breaking into. There is also good information about how adding a burglar alarm or even simple home security devices can give you extra security that deter a criminal from choosing you as their next victim.
You can also work with your neighbors to keep each other safe. For instance, a neighborhood watch group is a great way to show everyone that they are being watched and will not have an easy time on your block. You can put up signs that indicate you have people watching for suspicious behavior. We recommend that you contact your local police department for more information.
home safety series, we discuss some simple tips for making your home less of a target.
Make Your House Look Occupied
The best way to keep a burglar away from your home while you are gone is to make it appear that you never left. Start by temporarily stopping the delivery of the daily mail and newspaper. When papers are allowed to pile up on the front porch or mail boxes start to overflow, criminals are alerted that people have gone out of town. Put timers on lights inside the house so they turn on every night. The same can be done for television sets will help give the appearance that people are at home. Once you have things in place to make the house look occupied, remember to do one final thing: turn off the ringer for your phone. All the work you have done to create the illusion that you are home can be shattered by a ringing phone that is never answered.
Ask a friend or relative to stop by your home periodically if you will be gone for several days. This allows them to keep an eye on the place, and will show any criminals who might be watching that someone is going inside on a regular basis. If no one is able to do this for you, try to leave a parked car in the driveway while you are away to make it seem like someone is at home.
Burglars who think they have found an easy target can break into your home quickly. One way to discourage this is by to put up signs or stickers that state you have a working security system in place. The last thing a criminal wants is to set off an alarm, and if they see the signs the will think your home is not worth the effort.
Safety When You Are Home
Just because you don’t leave home don’t mean your house is automatically safe. A very common mistake is to make it obvious that you have expensive items in your home. Of course most people would assume that every home has a variety of expensive property in the home, but if a criminal can actually see them they will be far more tempted to break in. Never place left over containers where they can be seen in the trash. Doing so lets a criminal know exactly what you have of value in the home, and they may be inclined to break that window, grab what they can and run off.
By that point, criminals are not as active about looking for goods they may want to steal.
Always keep you vehicles locked. Many times a thief will walk around neighborhoods and look for an easy grab. Unlocked vehicles are a sure target.
The following are some of the most common scams that the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office Have received complaints and have investigates and tips help prevent you from being a victim.
- Telemarketing Fraud
- Nigerian Letter or “419” Fraud
- Identity Theft
- Advance Fee Schemes
- Health Care Fraud or Health Insurance Fraud
- Redemption / Strawman / Bond Fraud
- Letter of Credit Fraud
- Prime Bank Note Fraud
- “Ponzi’ Schemes
- Pyramid Schemes
- Market Manipulation or “Pump and Dump” Fraud
When you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud.
Here are some warning signs of telemarketing fraud—what a caller may tell you:
- “You must act ‘now’ or the offer won’t be good.”
- “You’ve won a ‘free’ gift, vacation, or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges.
- “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.” You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.
- “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone.” The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.
- “You don’t need any written information about their company or their references.”
- “You can’t afford to miss this ‘high-profit, no-risk’ offer.”
If you hear these or similar “lines” from a telephone salesperson, just say “no thank you” and hang up the telephone.
Tips for Avoiding Telemarketing Fraud:
It’s very difficult if not impossible to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the telephone. Before you buy anything by telephone, remember:
- Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company. Legitimate businesses understand that you want more information about their company and are happy to comply.
- Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity. If you get brochures about costly investments, ask someone whose financial advice you trust to review them. But, unfortunately, beware—not everything written down is true.
- Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. Unfortunately, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.
- Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. Some con artists give out false names, telephone numbers, addresses, and business license numbers. Verify the accuracy of these items.
- Before you give money to a charity or make an investment, find out what percentage of the money is paid in commissions and what percentage actually goes to the charity or investment.
- Before you send money, ask yourself a simple question. “What guarantee do I really have that this solicitor will use my money in the manner we agreed upon?”
- Don’t pay in advance for services. Pay services only after they are delivered.
- Be wary of companies that want to send a messenger to your home to pick up money, claiming it is part of their service to you. In reality, they are taking your money without leaving any trace of who they are or where they can be reached.
- Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you to make a snap decision.
- Don’t pay for a “free prize.” If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.
- Before you receive your next sales pitch, decide what your limits are—the kinds of financial information you will and won’t give out on the telephone.
- Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor. It’s never rude to wait and think about an offer.
- Never respond to an offer you don’t understand thoroughly.
- Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.
- Be aware that your personal information is often brokered to telemarketers through third parties.
- If you have been victimized once, be wary of persons who call offering to help you recover your losses for a fee paid in advance.
- If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies.
Nigerian letter frauds combine the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter mailed from Nigeria offers the recipient the “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author—a self-proclaimed government official—is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the author, such as blank letterhead stationery, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a fax number provided in the letter. Some of these letters have also been received via e-mail through the Internet. The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim, who has demonstrated a “propensity for larceny” by responding to the invitation, to send money to the author of the letter in Nigeria in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons.
Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials, and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are spirited out of Nigeria. In actuality, the millions of dollars do not exist, and the victim eventually ends up with nothing but loss. Once the victim stops sending money, the perpetrators have been known to use the personal information and checks that they received to impersonate the victim, draining bank accounts and credit card balances. While such an invitation impresses most law-abiding citizens as a laughable hoax, millions of dollars in losses are caused by these schemes annually. Some victims have been lured to Nigeria, where they have been imprisoned against their will along with losing large sums of money. The Nigerian government is not sympathetic to victims of these schemes, since the victim actually conspires to remove funds from Nigeria in a manner that is contrary to Nigerian law. The schemes themselves violate section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code, hence the label “419 fraud.”
Tips for Avoiding Nigerian Letter or “419” Fraud:
- If you receive a letter from Nigeria asking you to send personal or banking information, do not reply in any manner. Contact your local law enforcement agency or send the letter to the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You can also register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.
- If you know someone who is corresponding in one of these schemes, encourage that person to contact your local law enforcement agency, the FBI or the U.S. Secret Service as soon as possible.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
- Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation.
- Guard your account information carefully.
Identity theft occurs when someone assumes your identity to perform a fraud or other criminal act. Criminals can get the information they need to assume your identity from a variety of sources, including by stealing your wallet, rifling through your trash, or by compromising your credit or bank information. They may approach you in person, by telephone, or on the Internet and ask you for the information.
The sources of information about you are so numerous that you cannot prevent the theft of your identity. But you can minimize your risk of loss by following a few simple hints.
Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft:
- Never throw away ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or bank statements in a usable form.
- Never give your credit card number over the telephone unless you make the call.
- Reconcile your bank account monthly, and notify your bank of discrepancies immediately.
- Keep a list of telephone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards, etc.
- Report unauthorized financial transactions to your bank, credit card Company, and the police as soon as you detect them.
- Review a copy of your credit report at least once each year. Notify the credit bureau in writing of any questionable entries and follow through until they are explained or removed.
- If your identity has been assumed, ask the credit bureau to print a statement to that effect in your credit report.
- If you know of anyone who receives mail from credit card companies or banks in the names of others, report it to local or federal law enforcement authorities.
An advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift—and then receives little or nothing in return.
The variety of advance fee schemes is limited only by the imagination of the con artists who offer them. They may involve the sale of products or services, the offering of investments, lottery winnings, “found money,” or many other “opportunities.” Clever con artists will offer to find financing arrangements for their clients who pay a “finder’s fee” in advance. They require their clients to sign contracts in which they agree to pay the fee when they are introduced to the financing source. Victims often learn that they are ineligible for financing only after they have paid the “finder” according to the contract. Such agreements may be legal unless it can be shown that the “finder” never had the intention or the ability to provide financing for the victims.
Tips for Avoiding Advanced Fee Schemes:
If the offer of an “opportunity” appears too good to be true, it probably is. Follow common business practice. For example, legitimate business is rarely conducted in cash on a street corner.
- Know who you are dealing with. If you have not heard of a person or company that you intend to do business with, learn more about them. Depending on the amount of money that you plan on spending, you may want to visit the business location, check with the Better Business Bureau, or consult with your bank, an attorney, or the police.
- Make sure you fully understand any business agreement that you enter into. If the terms are complex, have them reviewed by a competent attorney.
- Be wary of businesses that operate out of post office boxes or mail drops and do not have a street address. Also be suspicious when dealing with persons who do not have a direct telephone line and who are never in when you call, but always return your call later.
- Be wary of business deals that require you to sign nondisclosure or non-circumvention agreements that are designed to prevent you from independently verifying the bona fides of the people with whom you intend to do business. Con artists often use non-circumvention agreements to threaten their victims with civil suit if they report their losses to law enforcement.
Medical Equipment Fraud:
Equipment manufacturers offer “free” products to individuals. Insurers are then charged for products that were not needed and/or may not have been delivered.
“Rolling Lab” Schemes:
Unnecessary and sometimes fake tests are given to individuals at health clubs, retirement homes, or shopping malls and billed to insurance companies or Medicare.
Services Not Performed:
Customers or providers bill insurers for services never rendered by changing bills or submitting fake ones.
Medicare fraud can take the form of any of the health insurance frauds described above. Senior citizens are frequent targets of Medicare schemes, especially by medical equipment manufacturers who offer seniors free medical products in exchange for their Medicare numbers. Because a physician has to sign a form certifying that equipment or testing is needed before Medicare pays for it, con artists fake signatures or bribe corrupt doctors to sign the forms. Once a signature is in place, the manufacturers bill Medicare for merchandise or service that was not needed or was not ordered.
Tips for Avoiding Health Care Fraud or Health Insurance Fraud:
- Never sign blank insurance claim forms.
- Never give blanket authorization to a medical provider to bill for services rendered.
- Ask your medical providers what they will charge and what you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket.
- Carefully review your insurer’s explanation of the benefits statement. Call your insurer and provider if you have questions.
- Do not do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you that services of medical equipment are free.
- Give your insurance/Medicare identification only to those who have provided you with medical services.
- Keep accurate records of all health care appointments.
- Know if your physician ordered equipment for you.
Proponents of this scheme claim that the U.S. government or the Treasury Department control bank accounts—often referred to as “U.S. Treasury Direct Accounts”—for all U.S. citizens that can be accessed by submitting paperwork with state and federal authorities. Individuals promoting this scam frequently cite various discredited legal theories and may refer to the scheme as “Redemption,” “Strawman,” or “Acceptance for Value.” Trainers and websites will often charge large fees for “kits” that teach individuals how to perpetrate this scheme. They will often imply that others have had great success in discharging debt and purchasing merchandise such as cars and homes. Failures to implement the scheme successfully are attributed to individuals not following instructions in a specific order or not filing paperwork at correct times.
This scheme predominately uses fraudulent financial documents that appear to be legitimate. These documents are frequently referred to as “bills of exchange,” “promissory bonds,” “indemnity bonds,” “offset bonds,” “sight drafts,” or “comptrollers warrants.” In addition, other official documents are used outside of their intended purpose, like IRS forms 1099, 1099-OID, and 8300. This scheme frequently intermingles legal and pseudo legal terminology in order to appear lawful. Notaries may be used in an attempt to make the fraud appear legitimate. Often, victims of the scheme are instructed to address their paperwork to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
Tips for Avoiding Redemption/Strawman/Bond Fraud:
- Be wary of individuals or groups selling kits that they claim will inform you on to access secret bank accounts.
- Be wary of individuals or groups proclaiming that paying federal and/or state income tax is not necessary.
- Do not believe that the U.S. Treasury controls bank accounts for all citizens.
- Be skeptical of individuals advocating that speeding tickets, summons, bills, tax notifications, or similar documents can be resolved by writing “acceptance for value” on them.
- If you know of anyone advocating the use of property liens to coerce acceptance of this scheme, contact your local FBI office
Legitimate letters of credit are never sold or offered as investments. They are issued by banks to ensure payment for goods shipped in connection with international trade. Payment on a letter of credit generally requires that the paying bank receive documentation certifying that the goods ordered have been shipped and are en route to their intended destination. Letters of credit frauds are often attempted against banks by providing false documentation to show that goods were shipped when, in fact, no goods or inferior goods were shipped.
Other letter of credit frauds occur when con artists offer a “letter of credit” or “bank guarantee” as an investment wherein the investor is promised huge interest rates on the order of 100 to 300 percent annually. Such investment “opportunities” simply do not exist. (See Prime Bank Notes for additional information.)
Tips for Avoiding Letter of Credit Fraud:
- If an “opportunity” appears too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not invest in anything unless you understand the deal. Con artists rely on complex transactions and faulty logic to “explain” fraudulent investment schemes.
- Do not invest or attempt to “purchase” a “letter of credit.” Such investments simply do not exist.
- Be wary of any investment that offers the promise of extremely high yields.
Independently verify the terms of any investment that you intend to make, including the parties information.
International fraud artists have invented an investment scheme that supposedly offers extremely high yields in a relatively short period of time. In this scheme, they claim to have access to “bank guarantees” that they can buy at a discount and sell at a premium. By reselling the “bank guarantees” several times, they claim to be able to produce exceptional returns on investment. For example, if $10 million worth of “bank guarantees” can be sold at a two percent profit on 10 separate occasions—or “traunches”—the seller would receive a 20 percent profit. Such a scheme is often referred to as a “roll program.”
To make their schemes more enticing, con artists often refer to the “guarantees” as being issued by the world’s “prime banks,” hence the term “prime bank guarantees.” Other official sounding terms are also used, such as “prime bank notes” and “prime bank debentures.” Legal documents associated with such schemes often require the victim to enter into non-disclosure and non-circumvention agreements, offer returns on investment in “a year and a day”, and claim to use forms required by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In fact, the ICC has issued a warning to all potential investors that no such investments exist.
The purpose of these frauds is generally to encourage the victim to send money to a foreign bank, where it is eventually transferred to an off-shore account in the control of the con artist. From there, the victim’s money is used for the perpetrator’s personal expenses or is laundered in an effort to make it disappear.
While foreign banks use instruments called “bank guarantees” in the same manner that U.S. banks use letters of credit to insure payment for goods in international trade, such bank guarantees are never traded or sold on any kind of market.
Tips for Avoiding Prime Bank Note Fraud:
- Think before you invest in anything. Be wary of an investment in any scheme, referred to as a “roll program,” that offers unusually high yields by buying and selling anything issued by “prime banks.”
- As with any investment, perform due diligence. Independently verify the identity of the people involved, the veracity of the deal, and the existence of the security in which you plan to invest.
- Be wary of business deals that require non-disclosure or non-circumvention agreements that are designed to prevent you from independently verifying information about the investment.
- lved and the nature of the investment.
“Ponzi” schemes promise high financial returns or dividends not available through traditional investments. Instead of investing the funds of victims, however, the con artist pays “dividends” to initial investors using the funds of subsequent investors. The scheme generally falls apart when the operator flees with all of the proceeds or when a sufficient number of new investors cannot be found to allow the continued payment of “dividends.”
This type of fraud is named after its creator—Charles Ponzi of Boston, Massachusetts. In the early 1900s, Ponzi launched a scheme that guaranteed investors a 50 percent return on their investment in postal coupons. Although he was able to pay his initial backers, the scheme dissolved when he was unable to pay later investors.
Tips for Avoiding Ponzi Schemes:
- Be careful of any investment opportunity that makes exaggerated earnings claims.
- Exercise due diligence in selecting investments and the people with whom you invest—in other words, do your homework.
- Consult an unbiased third party—like an unconnected broker or licensed financial advisor—before
As in Ponzi schemes, the money collected from newer victims of the fraud is paid to earlier victims to provide a veneer of legitimacy. In pyramid schemes, however, the victims themselves are induced to recruit further victims through the payment of recruitment commissions.
More specifically, pyramid schemes—also referred to as franchise fraud or chain referral schemes—are marketing and investment frauds in which an individual is offered a distributorship or franchise to market a particular product. The real profit is earned, not by the sale of the product, but by the sale of new distributorships. Emphasis on selling franchises rather than the product eventually leads to a point where the supply of potential investors is exhausted and the pyramid collapses. At the heart of each pyramid scheme is typically a representation that new participants can recoup their original investments by inducing two or more prospects to make the same investment. Promoters fail to tell prospective participants that this is mathematically impossible for everyone to do, since some participants drop out, while others recoup their original investments and then drop out.
Tips for Avoiding Pyramid Schemes:
- Be wary of “opportunities” to invest your money in franchises or investments that require you to bring in subsequent investors to increase your profit or recoup your initial investment.
- Independently verify the legitimacy of any franchise or investment before you invest.
This scheme—commonly referred to as a “pump and dump”—creates artificial buying pressure for a targeted security, generally a low-trading volume issuer in the over-the-counter securities market largely controlled by the fraud perpetrators. This artificially increased trading volume has the effect of artificially increasing the price of the targeted security (i.e., the “pump”), which is rapidly sold off into the inflated market for the security by the fraud perpetrators (i.e., the “dump”); resulting in illicit gains to the perpetrators and losses to innocent third party investors. Typically, the increased trading volume is generated by inducing unwitting investors to purchase shares of the targeted security through false or deceptive sales practices and/or public information releases.
A modern variation on this scheme involves largely foreign-based computer criminals gaining unauthorized access to the online brokerage accounts of unsuspecting victims in the United States. These victim accounts are then utilized to engage in coordinated online purchases of the targeted security to affect the pump portion of a manipulation, while the fraud perpetrators sell their pre-existing holdings in the targeted security into the inflated market to complete the dump.
Tips for Avoiding Market Manipulation Fraud:
- Don’t believe the hype.
- Find out where the stock trades.
- Independently verify claims.
- Research the opportunity.
- Beware of high-pressure pitches.
- Always be skeptical.
Many cities and suburban areas have serious problems with gangs. While Greenwood has but a handful of gangs, they spell trouble wherever they exist. Gangs can create fear, destroy property, threaten residents, and drive out businesses.
Parents can do a lot to prevent gang problems or to reduce gang-related consequences. Most important, there’s a lot parents like you can do to keep your own child from joining gangs.
- Learn about gangs and signs of gang activity.
- Sharpen your parenting skills and use them.
- Join with others to make or keep your neighborhood gang-free.
Why do kids join gangs?
Young people (as young as nine or ten) join gangs for reasons that make sense to them, if not to adults. The reasons they give are varied:
- to belong to a group
- for excitement
- for protection
- to earn money
- to be with friends
Some signs of gang involvement:
- Specific colors or emblems on jackets, hats, etc.
- Special hand signals
- Unique symbols and lettering on tattoos
- Gang symbols on walls such as graffiti or on books or clothing
- Clothing (hats, bandannas, etc.) suggesting group or gang involvement
- Possession of unexplained large sums of money
- Change(s) in attitude: violent reactions, disruptive behavior, refusal to respond to authority (teachers, police, parents) etc.
- Secretive behavior by your child regarding activities and locations
- Change(s) in friends or friends who are not brought home
- Truancy or poor school performance
- Phone calls from individuals who either refuse to identify themselves, give unusual nicknames, or use a nickname to identify your child
- Negative contact with school officials and law enforcement officers
- Involvement with known or suspected gang members
- Interest in or possession of weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
Sharpen Your Skills as a Parent
Many gang members say they join gangs because it offers them a feeling of support, caring, belonging, and a sense of purpose — all the things typically provided by parents. Odds are the better you are providing these needs, the less attraction your child will find in gang membership. Parenting skills are especially important.
- Talk with and listen to your child. Schedule quality and quantity time with each child.
- Place a high value on education and help your child do his or her best in school. Do everything possible to prevent your son or daughter from dropping out. Take an active interest in education and grades.
- Help your child identify positive role models and heroes, especially people in your neighborhood.
- Do not be a “Do as I say, not as I do!” kind of parent.
- Do everything possible to involve your child in supervised, positive group activities.
- Praise your daughter or son for doing well and encourage her or him to fully develop skills.
- Know what your child is doing and with whom.
- Know who your children’s friends are and their parents.
- Don’t forget to talk about gangs. The best time is before there is a major problem.
- Don’t allow your children to have large amounts of un-obligated time. Have them participate in organized activities. (“hanging out” is not an organized activity)
- Look at your children’s schoolbooks and book bags for gang drawings.
Tell your child that:
- You disapprove of gangs.
- You see him or her as special and worth protecting.
- You don’t want to see him or her hurt or arrested.
- You want to help with his or her problems.
- Family members shouldn’t keep secrets from each other.
- You and other parents are working together against gangs.
Four Things You Can Do to Help Keep Gangs Out
First, develop positive alternatives. What activities currently exist for after-school involvement? What can you do to support them? What recreational facilities exist for your children? Support positive youth-related activities such as sports, scouting, social clubs, church groups, and after-school programs.
Second, support anti-crime programs such as crime and delinquency programs that discourage gang involvement. Invite efforts in your community to combat graffiti and vandalism. Keep your community pleasant, neat and well cared for.
Third, work with the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office and start or join a Neighborhood Watch Program. Statistics show that active Neighborhood Watch programs deter crime. Is suspicious activity in your neighborhood reported to police, or does it go unreported? Do you report suspicious groups and activity that you observe?
Fourth, take a zero tolerance stand on any gang-related activity and share your view whenever and wherever appropriate.