Osceola County residents reminded to be aware of fraud scams

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Over the past few months, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department has received complaints about three different fraud scams that have taken advantage of local residents.

Undersheriff Justin Halladay said the complaints have involved a fake sweepstakes, a fake job offer and a fake mortgage company.

In March, a Lincoln Township woman was told she had won Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes and needed to send money to process her winnings, Halladay said.

“Unfortunately, she fell into this trap,” Halladay said. “She continued to pay more and more. In the end she paid a total of about $24,000.”

Halladay said not all scams reach out to a specific person, and some scams are set up to look like legitimate companies that people will seek out.

In February, a Richmond Township woman applied for a mortgage online at what she thought was a completely credible website and company.

Halladay said the company got itself placed on a Better Business Bureau site to appear as an authentic business, when in reality it was not.

The “mortgage company” approved the woman’s loan, but required her to pay $6,000 in closing costs up front.

Halladay said that should have been the first sign something was amiss.

“With something like this, my biggest advice is to know the process,” he said. “Closing costs are paid at the end of a home purchase, not before. Just make sure you are delving deep enough into backgrounds for companies when doing things through the internet.”

Various attempts to contact the company have lead nowhere as it is no longer active and the contact information has been disconnected.

Earlier this month, a complaint was made by a woman in Evart who applied for a job that ended up getting her involved in depositing fraudulent checks.

She was told she worked for the company’s accounts receivable department and needed to cash checks, send a large portion back to the company and could keep a portion as her paycheck.

After the bank discovered the checks were fake, the woman owed about $4,000 to her bank.

She never filled out any tax papers or other documents necessary to get a real job, Halladay said. Again, it’s about knowing the process.

“We just want people to know this is out there and to not fall for the schemes,” he said. “You don’t ever get something for nothing, so that should set off an alarm. If you’re ever questioning it, please call the sheriff’s department and we will look into it.”