Stay a Step Ahead of the Latest Telephone Scams

August 8, 2017
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South San Francisco, CA   August 8, 2017  Submitted by SM Police 

Our Crime Analyst, CSO Scalzo, and Officer C. Basurto have brought it to my attention that there have been a few different telephone scams that have been reported to SMPD. Most recently a resident received a “Hostage Scam” where he received a telephone call from a caller that claimed to have his sister held captive for ransom.  The resident checked with his family and confirmed that the call was a scam.  There have been different variations of this scam but the theme is consistent.

Another scam we have seen are the IRS scams, I’ve personally received two of these phone calls and I was threatened that I would be arrested if I don’t send money via a gift card… really!?! The caller will represent themselves as IRS and claim that certified letters were sent to the taxpayer in the mail but were returned as undeliverable. The callers then threaten to arrest the potential victim if a payment is not immediately made through a prepaid debit card for back taxes owed. If you are not sure, hang up immediately and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

There is the Sweepstakes Scam or Prize Scams. The caller or email will claim that you just won a large amount of money or jewelry or a vacation. The pitch will be for you to pay $1,500 or a small amount for a tax attorney to help manage the taxes from such a large winning. Just remember, if you have to pay, it’s not prize!

Please take care of you and yours and don’t be afraid to just hang up on these crooks. Spread the word to your neighbors and family! I wanted to thank the residents who have shared these scams with on Nextdoor and forwarded the information to us. Below are links to the IRS, FCC, and the Federal Tarde Commission. These sites provide information on other scams and safety tips. Together we can send a message to these criminals that the 650 area code will not fall victim to their scams!

IRS Phone Scams
https://www.irs.gov/uac/newsroom/phone-scams-continue-to-be-a-serious-threat-remain-on-irs-dirty-dozen-list-of-tax-scams-for-the-2016-filing-season

FCC- Federal Communications Commission
https://www.fcc.gov/general/frauds-scams-and-alerts-guides

Federal Trade Comission
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts

SOME MORE HELPFUL TIPS TO AVOID PHONE SCAMS
It Might Be a Phone Scam When An Unsolicited Caller Tells You:
•        “You’ve been specially selected (for this offer).”
•        “You’ll get a free bonus if you buy our product.”
•        “Your computer (or cell phone) has a virus”
•        “You’ve won one of five valuable prizes.”
•        “You’ve won big money in a foreign lottery.”
•        “This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.”
•        “You have to make up your mind right away.”
•        “You trust me, right?”
•        “You don’t need to check our company with anyone.”
•        “We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.”

Questions to Ask Yourself AND The Caller:
•        Who’s calling… and why? The law says telemarketers must tell you it’s a sales call, the name of the seller and what they’re selling before they make their pitch. If you don’t hear this information, say “no thanks,” and get off the phone.
•        What’s the hurry? Fast talkers who use high pressure tactics could be hiding something. Take your time. Most legitimate businesses will give you time and written information about an offer before asking you to commit to a purchase.
•        If it’s free, why are they asking me to pay? Question fees you need to pay to redeem a prize or gift. Free is free. If you have to pay, it’s a purchase — not a prize or a gift.
•        Why am I “confirming” my account information — or giving it out? Some callers have your billing information before they call you. They’re trying to get you to say “okay” so they can claim you approved a charge.
•        What time is it? The law allows telemarketers to call only between 8 am and 9 pm. A seller calling earlier or later is ignoring the law.
•        Do I want more calls like this one? If you don’t want a business to call you again, say so and register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. If they call back, they’re breaking the law.

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