Telephone scams a daily occurrence, police say

Image by Alachua County on Flickr.

Attempted telephone scams are a daily occurrence, according to the Montgomery County Police Department, and residents should be aware of the common types of these scams.

“Fraud calls go on all the time,” said Detective Mengedoht of the Financial Crimes Section. “Between a grandkid in distress call, a kidnapping call, [the Internal Revenue Service], a lottery scam call—they’re daily occurrences.”

Typically, when the department gets a call from a resident, e.g. for an alleged kidnapping, they would respond.

“Then we would find out that in fact, they were talking to somebody over the phone and they were directed to send a Green Dot [prepaid debit] card or Buy Amazon card and give the codes to the person over the phone,” he said.

Now, consumer education and additional questioning of the caller when the call is first received has cut down on the number of times an officer needs to respond in person, he said.

“It’s a continuous problem,” Mengedoht said. “People answer the phone an whether it’s an IRS agent saying you owe taxes and we have a warrant for your arrest, or someone saying you failed to show up for jury duty, you owe us money or you’re going to be arrested—those are continuing problems every day.”

The department has the following recommendations for residents who think they have received a scam call:

  • Do not provide information over the phone.  Scammers often ask leading questions to retrieve information from you.  Often, you do not realize that you are giving them valuable information.
  • Scammers create a sense of urgency.  Slow down and ask the caller for detailed information and a contact number.  Tell the caller you will call them back.  Then, attempt to verify the caller’s story by calling family and/or friends.
  • Remember that scammers often use a technique called “spoofing.”  Spoofing provides a fictitious number to a Caller ID display.
  • Do not send money.
  • Most importantly, contact police immediately if you believe you are a victim of a telephone scam.

In addition, the FBI has information concerning how to handle a caller who claims to be holding a relative (usually a child) and demanding ransom, a scheme that’s been around for years and comes into fashion from time to time with fraudsters.

Finally, the IRS notes there is an increase in tax scams during filing season. The department tells taxpayers the IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill if a citizen owes any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to make an arrest for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes are paid without allowing the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say is owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
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