Arlington Police Department shares advice and information following rise in scams

For immediate release

ARLINGTON – Amid a recent increase in various types of reported scams, Chief Julie Flaherty and the Arlington Police Department would like to share tips with residents on how to avoid becoming victims.

The department has seen an increase in scams in recent weeks. In one case, a victim purchased multiple gift cards totaling several thousand dollars after receiving an email regarding a refund to a nonexistent PayPal account. After giving the scammer the serial numbers of the gift cards, the victim was informed that the gift cards were invalid and needed to be purchased again.

In another case, a victim received a pop-up message on their computer stating that it had been hacked. The victim called the listed phone number and spoke with a person claiming to be an FBI agent who told them she might be a victim of identity theft. The scammer advised the victim to buy several gift cards and call back with the serial numbers. The victim was then advised to withdraw several thousand dollars from his bank account so that it was encrypted via Bitcoin, and to use the last four digits of his social security number as a PIN code.

Investigations into these incidents are ongoing. However, the money sent to the scammer in either case is unlikely to be recoverable.

The department has also received a report of the “grandparent scam” in which scammers call a person and inform them that a relative has been arrested – sometimes in a foreign country. Scammers may pose as the victim’s relative or a lawyer. The scammers then demand payment of bail in cash or in the form of a prepaid gift card, given to a person posing as a courier or bail guarantor who arrives at the victim’s home. In an alternative approach, the scammers request that the money be transferred via a transfer service, such as Western Union.

“The ‘grandparent scam’ is becoming increasingly common and specifically targets older people in the community. We therefore encourage everyone to be aware of the warning signs and to share them with those they know who may be part of a targeted population,” said Chief Flaherty. “However, there are many types of scams and anyone can fall victim to them, so it’s important that everyone knows how to recognize a scam and protect themselves.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers the following four signs to help people recognize possible scams:

  • The scammers claim to belong to an organization you know. They can use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some claim to be from a company you know, such as a utility company, tech company, or even a charity asking for donations.
  • Scammers say there is a problem or a price. They might say you’re in trouble with the government, you owe money, a family member has had an emergency, or there’s a virus on your computer. Some scammers say there is a problem with one of your accounts and you need to verify some information. Others will lie and say that you won money in a lottery or a contest, but you have to pay a fee to get it.
  • Scammers push you to act immediately. They might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check their story. They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, revoke your driver’s license or business license, or deport you. They might say that your computer is about to be corrupted.
  • Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way. They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company or putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a check (which later turns out to be a fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.

The Arlington Police Department would like to remind residents that legitimate organizations do not request payment by gift card, prepaid debit card or money transfer service. This should be a significant red flag. Prepaid debit cards and gift cards are not a legitimate way to pay for goods and services. They cannot be traced and once the funds have been transferred, the money cannot be recovered.

Additionally, residents are reminded never to give out personal information, including social security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

The FTC also recommends that if you receive an email or text message from a company you do business with that you believe is real, it’s always best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy or look up their phone number. Do not call a number they gave you or your caller ID number.

To avoid falling victim to the grandparents scam, the Arlington Police Department also recommends that if someone calls or texts claiming to be a family member or friend desperate for money :

  • Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story.
  • Verify the identity of the person by asking questions that a stranger could not answer.
  • Call a phone number for a family member or friend you know is genuine.
  • Check the story with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you were told to keep it a secret.
  • Do not transfer money or send checks or money orders by next day delivery or by courier.

Report any type of scam or fraud you detect at ftc.gov/complaint, or call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP. For more information on scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission website or the state website.

If anyone has questions or believes they have been victimized, they are encouraged to call the Arlington Police Department at 781-643-1212.

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