On March 31, The Moultrie Observer posted an article to our website about the City of Moultrie’s new downtown welcome center, which is staffed by the Moultrie Main Street office, and we included a photo of the people working in that office with their names in the caption. The story and photo ran in the print edition on April 7.
On Thursday, April 8, the Main Street office called us because they’d received a phone call from someone purporting to be from our corporate office and seeking the email addresses of everyone in the Main Street office — whom he called by name. The man said they were preparing a plaque for them and needed to get some information by email. She gave him the Main Street office email but she said when she resisted giving him the email addresses for individuals working there, the man on the phone became belligerent.
Once she was off the phone with the man, she called The Observer office because she was concerned that it was a scam.
We have had similar reports of callers approaching advertisers of our sister newspaper, The Tifton Gazette, although this is the first one in Colquitt County that’s been reported to us.
Giving someone your email address is primarily an invitation for them to send you information — or, in the case of our reporters, for us to send you questions so you can reply with the answers. Our ad staff uses email addresses to update advertisers on our available products and to seek their business. News, advertising, circulation and accounting departments all have legitimate needs to send emails to our customers and news sources.
If an email is part of your login to an online account, you may need to be more concerned about its security, but that can be mitigated by a strong password.
These scammers may be attempting to establish a relationship in which the recipient thinks they’re giving information to us but are actually giving it to the scammers. Or they may want the email address so they can send a link and persuade the recipient to click it — at which point a virus is downloaded onto the recipient’s computer.
It offends us that our normal coverage of events in the community probably directed the scammers to their potential target. We have to cover the news, and that won’t change. But we do encourage you to be vigilant whenever anyone asks for your personal information.
If someone claiming to be from The Observer, the South Georgia Media Group or CNHI Newspapers contacts you, and you’re unsure they’re who they claim to be, get their name and a phone number where you can call them back. Then call us at (229) 985-4545 (during normal business hours). We’ll help determine if the call is legitimate.
Kevin C. Hall
The Moultrie Observer