Mark Peterson, District Attorney of Contra Costa County, is reminding residents to beware of widespread telephone scams. “The best way to ensure our residents are protected is to make sure they are informed and are skeptical of callers demanding money,” said District Attorney Mark Peterson, “There are many scams out there. The more aware people are of scams in general, the more vigilant they will be.”
Recently reported scams include:
- Calls from a person claiming to be a police officer stating that the victim has an arrest warrant pending and that the victim will be arrested.
- Calls from a person claiming to be a police officer stating that there is a problem with the victim’s Social Security Number or Identification Number and that an officer would be coming to the victim’s home within the hour.
- A “robocall” stating that the local county sheriff will arrest the citizen for criminal violations.
- A phone call from someone pretending to be a family member saying they were arrested or had an emergency while traveling in a foreign country.
- Fake IRS agents are calling taxpayers claiming they owe taxes and must make a payment immediately or risk going to jail, being deported, orlosing theirbusiness or driver’s license.
- Calls threatening the victim with prosecution for failing to comply with a summons for jury service in federal or state courts.
- Calls reporting that there is something wrong with the victim’s computer and the victim should give someone remote access.
During these calls, recipients are pressured to send money or prepaid credit cards, or to provide confidential personal information, which can lead to identity theft and fraud.
These calls can appear legitimate because the scammers may even know the last four digits of the victim’s social security number or other personal information, including a relative’s name.
Generally,the scammers rent or purchase phone numbers in bulk that can, in turn, be used by a software program that automatically dials victims. The scammers’ phone number can either be masked to make it appear that they are calling from the IRS or from local law enforcement, or the scammersuse the numbers for a short period of time and then get new numbers to continue their scams. Unfortunately, this makes the fraudsters difficult to locate and prosecute. Sometimes, the callers are even located outside the United States.
Here’s how to help protect yourself:
- Know that IRS agents usually contact individuals by mail first. They NEVER demand payment by debit card, wire transfer or credit card.
- Know that law enforcement agencies will NEVER ask for payment over the phone or offer to negotiate an outstanding warrant for a reduced payment, in lieu of arrest.
- Ask questions – When you receive a suspicious call, be skeptical and ask for details to find out why the person is calling.
- Verify the answers – If the person is claiming to be a relative, call the relative or their immediate family on a known phone number to verify if they were travelling and if they are ok. If the person is calling from a department or agency, call the public number for the department and see if the person really works there and whether there is really a warrant, etc.
- Never provide your social security number or other personal identifying or financial information to an unsolicited caller.
- Don’t send cash bymessenger, overnight mail, money transfer, or prepaid credit card. If you use cash or a money transfer — rather than a traditional credit card — you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges.
- Always check with a loved one or trusted advisor before sending money.
- If you get a call from a scammer, hang up the phone.
- Report scam calls to the Federal Trade Commission (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/) or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
- Report IRS scams to the federal reporting system. The IRS tracks complaints regarding IRS scams and is interested in the information gleaned from those complaints. Make reports at: http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
For more information on IRS scams, please click here.