ONEONTA – Be on high alert for phone scams that have bilked nearly $70,000 out of unsuspecting Otsego County residents so far this year, advises Trooper Aga Dembinska, Troop C public information officer.
In a press release, police warn that the following scams have been reported to Troop C:
• Lottery – you have won the lottery but you need to pay the tax before you receive the lump sum payment.
• IRS/Social Security – allow bank account access or face prison time.• Family emergency – your child/grandchild is under arrest; bail money is needed send cash next day air by • UPS or FedEx. They claim to be a bondsman or police agency or family member.
• Utility scam – Electric, cable, wireless company demanding money or face loss of service or criminal lawsuit.
• Computer IT scam – victim allows virtual access to believing it is a “bug fix” funds withdrawn electronically.
• Purchase of items advertised online (CraigsList, LetGo, eBay, etc) the person will send “too much money” then ask for bank account access, or for a check as reimbursement. This is done with electronic deposits and by false checks (usually sent on Friday, clears in the account, deemed fraud on Monday).
In many of these cases, the person on the other end of the phone will demand the victim obtain gift cards such as Amazon, Google Play or Itunes. The scammer will ask to send the gift cards, photograph them or email the code that is used to redeem them. Some of the most recent scammers will tell the victim to go to Walmart to complete a Walmart money transfer, to send cash next day air using UPS or FedEx or they will demand money orders or cashier’s checks sent.
If someone calls claiming to be a friend of family member desperate for money, resist the urge to act immediately, ask questions only that person would know. Hang up and contact your loved one immediately. Never send cash to anyone you don’t know. The scammers are very convincing, they play on your emotions, threaten to call the police and sometimes swear you to secrecy.
Many of these scammers are out of the country and are untraceable. Money that appears to be sent locally is often delivered to a vacant or unoccupied residence and picked up and it cannot be tracked.
Police advise these general rules:
• Do not send cash to anyone you do not know
• Do not send gift cards to anyone, unless it is an actual gift to a known person.
• Unless you have a winning lottery ticket in your hand, you did not win the lottery. No lottery will pre-charge taxes as a result of winning.
• Do not provide information with your bank account information or social security number.
• Do not provide anyone access to your computer, in person, on the phone, or through the internet.
• If someone is calling you asking you to verify information such as a bank or utility company, hang up and call the number on your statement.
• Ask questions only that person would know. Hand up and contact your loved one immediately. Never send cash to anyone you don’t know.
• Bank employees should be cognizant of customers taking large sums of money not consistent with their normal banking habits. Retail store employees be cognizant of people purchasing a large amount of gift cards.
• If you feel that you may be a victim and have lost money, contact your local police agency.