Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Scams hit brick wall with Webb

By Rita Howell

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James Webb has a reputation for being tenacious in his position as veteran’s service officer for this county. He’ll go to bat to see that vets get the benefits they’ve earned. He’ll drive them to the VA hospital in Memphis. He’ll drive the VA officials to distraction until he gets fair treatment.

In short, Webb is strong-minded and determined, and apparently not easily fooled.

The two groups who recently tried to scam him may wish they hadn’t.

He was on the receiving end of several (unsolicited) bogus checks from a “Vegas Clearinghouse.” Those checks remain uncashed in a stack on the desk of Justin Hill at First Security Bank.

“They’re from a fake lottery,” Hill explained to me this week. “The people who receive these checks haven’t signed up for anything.”

Many Panola Countians have received such checks over the past year, Hill said.

The scammers promise a sizeable cash prize, but in order to claim it, the recipient must first pay “taxes” on it. The company encloses an authentic-looking check in the amount of several thousand dollars. The recipient is instructed to deposit the check and send part of the amount back to the lottery company to cover the taxes.

Of course the check is no good, and if the “lottery winner” follows through by sending a check back  to the scammers, he is out the money.

James Webb didn’t fall for that.

Neither did he cooperate with another clever group that contacted him by phone to ask his participation in a plan to catch people who were “scamming senior citizens.”

A man who identified himself as being with the “Senior Protective Agency” wanted Webb to take $2,900 cash to Wal-Mart to send it by wire to a recipient in Vancouver, B.C. who the agency would then grab when he got Webb’s money.


I’ll bet the Senior Protective Agency wishes they’d never called James Webb.

In no uncertain terms, he told them he is a graduate of the Citizens Police Academy in Batesville, Mississippi, and has the badge to prove it.

In addition, he has a gun permit and is well-acquainted with local law enforcement, including the Batesville Police Department, the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, and the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

Oh, he is also a volunteer firefighter.

The scammers of the Senior Protective Agency and the Vegas Clearinghouse are, of course, nowhere to be found now. But Webb’s concern is that nobody else fall for their ploys.

“The best thing people can do when they think something like this is a scam is to contact local law enforcement,” said Batesville Assistant Police Chief Don Province.

“But they should never go to the bank and cash the check.”