WHITMAN -- As part of National Crime Prevention Month, Chief Timothy Hanlon and the Whitman Police Department wish to warn the public about common types of scams.
October is National Crime Prevention Month. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that in 2019 consumers lost more than $1.9 billion to fraud with nearly $667 million lost to imposter scams alone.
Chief Hanlon warns that residents should NEVER give personal information, social security numbers or credit card numbers to people through social media, or to people who call their homes or cell phones unsolicited.
"It is important for residents to be able to identify the various types of scams that are out there,” Chief Hanlon said. “For example, residents should always verify the legitimacy of a caller before giving out any personal information, and should never pay for an item with a gift card.”
Common scams that target residents – specifically senior citizens – include:
- Social Security Scams: Scammers pretend to be from the U.S. Social Security Administration and try to get your Social Security Number or money.
- IRS Scams: Scammers call, pretending to be from the IRS, and say they're filing a lawsuit against your back taxes.
- Phishing Scams: Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information.
- Fake Check Scams: Scammers ask you to deposit a check for more than you are owed and send some of the money to another person.
- Utility Scams: Scammers pose as bill collectors from utility companies and threaten to shut off service if you do not pay.
- Sweepstakes: Someone calls to notify you that you have won a contest or sweepstakes and must send money to collect any winnings.
Often, the scammer will demand payment via electronic money order or pre-paid debit card. This should be an immediate red flag. No legitimate vendor will ever demand money via these means.
To prevent similar scams, the FTC recommends the following:
- Do not take calls from unknown numbers.
- Caller ID is not always accurate. A call from a “local” number might not be coming from a local person or organization.
- Do not share personal, identifying information like your Social Security Number, account numbers, or your mother’s maiden name.
- If a caller claims to represent an organization and you are doubtful, hang up and contact that agency to verify whether the call was truly from a representative.
- Never pay a caller with a gift card.
- Telemarketers are required by law to state that they are making a sales call. They are mandated to say the name of the seller and the product before pitching their sale. If this does not happen, hang up.
- Be wary of callers who talk quickly and pressure you to make a decision quickly.
- Do not buy a product or service because of a “free gift.”
- Get all information in writing before making a purchase.
- Verify the legitimacy of a charity before donating.
- Before making an investment that a caller or emailer is offering, check with your state securities regulator to make sure the offer is properly registered.
- Do not send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you pay for a product or service with cash or a money transfer, you run the risk of losing the right to dispute fraudulent charges.
- Do not accept an offer that requires a registration or shipping fee to get a prize or gift.
- Beware of offers to “help” recover money that you already have lost. Scammers sometimes pose as law enforcement officers who will help get money back for a fee.
Report rude or abusive callers, even if you already sent them money, by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP or by visiting ftc.gov/complaint.
If anyone has any questions or feels that they have been victimized, they are encouraged to call the Whitman Police Department.