On Wednesday, Sheriff Tim Burkhalter announced the appointment of John Upton as the agency’s Scam and Fraud Prevention Officer, a position that will maintain online resources to “inform the public regarding current scam schemes in the Rome-Floyd County area,” according to a release.
“He just happened to retire here in Rome,” Burkhalter said of Upton. “He came to me and wanted to volunteer for something that could make a difference.”
Recently retired as director of campus safety at Georgia Highlands College, Upton will also lead efforts to provide training to community groups and local businesses in the area of fraud prevention.
Upton had previously held other high level positions in law enforcement before moving to Floyd County to retire. Burkhalter said the agency is lucky to have someone with such an impressive resume in a volunteer position.
The sheriff said cases of online and phone scammers is on the rise and that there isn’t much law enforcement can do about many of the cases once the money has changed hands. Often, the scammers will even pretend to be from the government or local law enforcement organizations.
“I’ve had them call me while I’m in church before begging us not to pick them up,” Burkhalter said. “Every sheriff I’ve talked to seems to have this same problem in their county.”
Burkhalter said the idea for a dedicated scam and fraud prevention officer now has legs and is ready to start walking.
“We have been targeting the locations with MoneyGram, Western Union and Ria money transfer desks inside and speaking with store managers to set up a program to train cashiers to indentify possible scam situations,” Burkhalter said. “We plan to add signs at point of sale locations to serve as reminders that law enforcement will never solicit money by phone or online. We’ve got to remind folks that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
FCSO has already collected information from members of the Secret Service, FBI and GBI during the planning stages of their new fraud prevention efforts, even speaking with executives at some of the money transfer companies. Burkhalter said the program will only continue to evolve to help prevent fraud before it happens.