CATAWBA COUNTY — The Newton Police Department is warning citizens about a phone scam where scammers try to solicit money from senior citizens.
Several calls have been reported where the caller tells the recipient they have failed to show up to court for jury duty or failed to pay a fine, and they must pay a specified amount of money or face jail time, according to a press release from the City of Newton.
Law enforcement agencies never call people by phone to solicit money for fines — any legitimate fine would be court ordered, according to the release.
Paperwork for such fines would be issued by a judge, and the paperwork would be delivered by a law enforcement officer.
Also, a number of Catawba County departments were recently infected by an intrusive malware virus, which has now been contained.
“Two weeks ago, we had an infection of malware, and it was shutting down (a number) of our servers all over the county,” Catawba County Manager Mick Berry said. “Nothing catastrophic happened other than some temporary interruptions in service in a number of our departments, but it didn’t really shut down any of our operations.”
Malware, short for malicious software, is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software.
A side effect of this particular malware sent a number of spam emails to various residents in Catawba County.
“That is a typical thing that malware does — it will send out spam emails to addresses that I have emailed from another server,” Berry said.
The county is working with a technology firm to diagnose the issue, and if any personal information has been compromised, the county is legally required to provide notification.
“The good news is that from this experience and the company that we have worked with to shut that particular virus down, we feel very good about where we will be after the investigation is complete in terms of the security in our network,” Berry said. “Now, we will be even more prepared if anything like this happens again.”
Berry added the county encourages residents to reach out when they receive suspicious emails or phone calls and gave advice on how residents can keep an eye out.
“(Spam emails) are pretty easy to catch — they tend to have misspellings or some bogus request or link, and the point of those spam emails is to get the recipient to click on that link,” Berry said. “Pay close attention to what you are getting — if you have any suspicion, you should contact that person and verify.
“It’s the same advice that all of us live by in this day and age.”
If you have any questions or receive a call you believe may be suspicious, contact a local law enforcement agency.