With a rise in Scam Crimes, the Whitemarsh Township Police Department warns residents to be aware of the more common scam crimes that have been going around.
The “someone” has been arrested or kidnapped scam
Relatives have received calls where an unknown person (claiming to be the police) states that a person has been arrested and instructs the relative to send money for bail. The caller may know details about the person’s life, possibly gathered from social media or other websites. This could include names of family members and details of employment or education.
People who receive a call are instructed to do the following:
- Attempt to contact the person that has allegedly been arrested/kidnapped and confirm their well-being.
- Ask the caller for specific information about where the family member may be held.
- Have the caller physically describe the family member to see if the caller can provide some level of detail that could help confirm or dispel the claim.
- Note the phone number where the call or text originated and report the incident to your local police department immediately.
The IRS Agent scam
The voice on the other end of the line claims to be an IRS Criminal Investigator. Arrest is imminent if you don’t immediately pay thousands of dollars in back taxes. Individuals are instructed to put $500 on multiple iTunes gift cards and give up the 16-digit codes, other gift cards, or wire money. Don’t be fooled. The IRS would never ask a taxpayer to buy iTunes cards or other gift cards for any reason.
The Fake Sheriff
You get a call from someone posing as a sheriff’s deputy claiming you’ve missed jury duty and owe the county a $1,000 fine. Pay immediately, the caller says, or you will go to jail. Rest assured, no sheriff or court will call you and demand payment like this for missing jury duty. If you get this call, hang up, then call the police and report it.
A con artist calls and tells you that you have won the Nigerian (or Jamaican) lottery. All you have to do to collect is wire $1,500. Don’t do it. Lotteries never call to give money to people who haven’t even bought a ticket.
Credit Card Con/Phishing scams
You get a call, or email, from your bank or another company that there is a problem with your account. To straighten it out they need your account number, date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Hang up. This is a scam to get information to hack your account. Callers or emails may pose as banks, utility companies, credit card companies, Paypal, Ebay, etc.
This type of scam generally targets the elderly, but can also be attempted on any unsuspecting resident. The “diversion burglary” usually involves an attempt to lure a resident from his/her house or apartment by using a ruse. The ruse can involve a wide variety of tactics such as pretending to be with a public utility and requesting that you help them investigate an issue on the property, asking for assistance in “jumping their car” which broke down near the house or using your portable phone, pretending to be conducting a survey and asking you to step outside, and any other scheme to get the resident outside. After stepping outside, and while your attention is diverted, a second person slips into the residence through an unlocked door or window. Once inside, the thief grabs valuables and leaves before you return to the residence. Sometimes victims are not even aware the theft has occurred until they go to the jewelry box to wear a particular pair of earrings and realize their entire collection of jewelry is missing. During the spring and summer months, beware of strangers that engage you outside of your residence (i.e. while performing yard work) as all they need to do is distract you while their counterpart sneaks in the door that you likely left unlocked.
TO PROTECT YOURSELF from becoming a victim of this type of scam:
- If someone knocks on your door saying they are with a public utility, ask them for identification, what section or office they work for, and telephone that agency to verify his/her identity before having any further interaction.
- If someone you do not know knocks and asks you to step outside, lock the door and tell them that you are not interested. If they are asking your assistance like the use of your phone, do not open the door and lock it. If you wish to help them ask them for the number, you place the call and relay the message to the person they were looking to contact.
- If something does not feel right, call 911. Try to take note of the person’s physical description, the direction they go when they leave the property, and if you see them get into a car, the description of the car.
Persons responsible for this scam call and claim that the potential victim has won a prize ranging from I-pads, vehicles, and a number of other highly desirable items. During the telephone call the caller offers to arrange delivery of the item if he/she pays the “tax” or “handling fee” using a credit card. The caller will continue with high pressure tactics and will often state that this is a one-time offer that must be completed during the call.
If you are asked to pay in order to claim an item that you have “won” or is “free”, you are likely the potential victim of a scam.
What to do if you are “cold called” about winning a desirable item:
- Do not provide any financial or personal information. The scammer can use this information to make you a victim of identity theft.
- Do not provide any credit/debit card information to the caller.
- Do not wire money. The callers might ask you to use a money transfer service (i.e. Western Union) if you are afraid to give a credit card. Using this type of service is just like sending cash, and once you send it there is little chance that you can recoup it.
- Do not trust the caller ID. Advances in technology allow scammers to disguise their area code to make it look like they are calling from a local number. They use this “spoofing” technology to mask the fact that they are actually calling from anywhere in the world.
- Report this information to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or report the incident to the Police.
Whitemarsh Township Police Department
616 Germantown Pike
Lafayette Hill, PA 19444
Monday - Friday
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.