By LOIS KINDLE
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has reopened its Dist. 4 substation in Sun City Center.
Located in the Atrium Building courtyard at 948 Cherry Hills Drive, the substation provides area residents with a physical place to go and file claims of fraud or scams with Community Service Aide Michelle Mortimer. It’s also an office space for Community Service Deputy Jeff Merry, when he is not out on service calls or attending meetings.
“Michelle was temporarily housed at the Dist. 4 (command) office in Ruskin, while this one was closed,” explained Merry. “Our phones were transferred there, so she could handle the same types of calls she did here.”
While the substation was closed from early March though Aug. 24, Merry participated in Zoom meetings whenever possible. The information he would have normally imparted to the public through in-person meetings and forums went out as public service announcements, Facebook postings, mailings, newspaper ads and drive-through events, like Operation Medicine Cabinet in July and the one on Aug. 13 at Community Hall, where 500 informational packets with hurricane readiness resources were passed out, were also used.
The next Operation Medicine Chest has been set for Dec. 4, again at Community Hall.
Visits to the substation are by appointment only. Like many places these days, the office is equipped with plexiglass shields, and for the protection of HCSO employees and the public, visitors must wear masks, have their temperatures checked and answer a series of screening questions before admission.
Meanwhile, Mortimer and Merry have been busy handling reports of many cases of fraud in Sun City Center. “We’ve seen an increase in computer scams, romance scams, (fake) calls from the Sheriff’s Office regarding warrants, and social media scams,” Mortimer said. “Just this week, an SCC victim lost about $40,000 by giving remote access to their computer, so it could be unlocked by a suspect who then was able to transfer funds out of the person’s bank account.”
The victim had received a fake pop-up on the computer that said to call a specified number for help.
Once someone has backdoor access to your computer, spyware or malware can be installed on it to enable access for the completion of criminal activities, which go unnoticed until they’re eventually discovered. Unfortunately, it’s usually not until after the crook has absconded with much or all of your bank account.
“Never click on links or pop-ups on your computer or in emails, unless you know exactly whom you are dealing with,” Merry said. “Don’t call numbers included in either of them or on unverified websites. And if you don’t know a caller, don’t engage in conversation, just hang up.”
Any time you need to report a suspicious correspondence or contact, or if you suspect someone has taken advantage of you, call the HCSO substation in Sun City Center to report it at 813-242-5515. The office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.