Phone scam targets teachers in Kentucky

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Phone, Scam
Graphic Courtesy: MGN Online

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is warning teachers and school systems about a phone scam.

It has surfaced in Franklin, Jefferson and Whitley counties, according to investigators.

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Someone identifying himself as “Deputy Hart” is calling schools asking to speak with a specific teacher who allegedly has an outstanding warrant or missed jury duty, according to the attorney general’s office.

School officials have been threatened with “obstruction charges” if the scammer is not given information or allowed to speak with the teacher. Once on the phone with the victim, the scammer requests payment via gift cards to resolve the legal matter and avoid arrest, according to investigators.

Reports indicate that the scam call is spoofed appearing to be from a local area code and one victim said the scammer pressured her to purchase $2,500 in gift cards, but ultimately she did not fall victim, according to investigators.

The Office of Attorney General has been in contact with each school district, local officials and the Department of Education and asked teachers and school district employees to follow these tips to avoid falling victim to the scam.

Change your privacy settings
Be aware that con artists may use the information that is publicly available on social media against you. Consider adjusting your privacy settings to protect key information about you and your family.

Verify the call
A scammer may call from a spoofed phone number and pretend to have information like badge numbers, names of actual law enforcement officials, courthouse addresses and phone numbers. Never trust the caller and always verify information independently before making a payment.

Never pay over the phone using gift cards or reloadable credit cards   
Scammers typically use gift cards and reloadable cards as their preferred method of payment because they are almost impossible to track and recover. Know that legitimate local authorities will not ask you to pay using these methods.

To report a scam contact the Office of the Attorney General at 888-432-9257 and file a complaint online.

Kentuckians are urged to stay up to date on new and trending scams by signing up for Scam Alerts.

To enroll text the words KYOAG Scam to GOV311 (468311), or enroll online at ag.ky.gov/scams and select text message or email alert.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.