Scammers targeting bars in new year

News 12 at 11 / Sunday, January 5, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- We're only a week into the new year, and scammers aren't wasting any time.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says several bars around the area have been getting calls telling them their liquor permit fees haven't cleared for 2014, and they need to pay right away.

The Sheriff's Office says giving out your credit card info will only get you a "glass- half empty" kind of day.

It's a tricky phone call that's going around.

"Some of the bars in the area have been receiving phone calls stating their liquor permits were up for renewal or they had done something wrong and they still owed fees," said Lt. Lewis Blanchard with the Sheriff's Office.

He described it as fees they'd have to pay immediately or face big trouble, according to the caller.

"Needed to pay at this time or else the Sheriff's Office, ATF, or Department of Revenue would be down to close them down shortly," he said.

It's a threat that hit a nerve with some businesses.

"It would make them nervous if they were going to be shut down. If they hit the right one, somebody might actually give them information over the phone," Blanchard said.

Lt. Blanchard says it's a sneaky sell, and at least one business in our area has fallen for it and given out personal information. He says both 1102 on Broad and Wooden Barrel Lounge on Peach Orchard Road have gotten these calls.

"The scammers have learned specific times of the year they can do specific things, and at the new year, most businesses, bar owners, things of that nature, have to have permit fees taken care of," Blanchard said.

It's a realistic business concern at the beginning of a new year, but Blanchard says the fact it was over the phone killed the credibility.

"You can actually pay by credit card for your liquor permit fees for the state, but it's through a secure website that the state has and they don't call and ask you to do that," he explained.

Now with at least one bar out a couple hundred dollars, the Sheriff's Office is investigating but says getting justice from this caller might be hard to do.

"It's being looked into, however, generally speaking, most of these scams are going to originate outside the United States, so it's going to be difficult for us to do anything," he said.

Lt. Blanchard wants to remind people that divisions like the Sheriff's Office and the Department of Revenue or the ATF will never call to solicit money over the phone. If you've gotten a call like this, let the Sheriff's Office know.

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