ESSEX — As part of National Crime Prevention Month, Chief Paul Francis and the Essex 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 Francis 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.
“Knowing how to identify common types of scams is an important way to protect the personal information of you and your loved ones,” Chief Francis said. “Please be sure to always double check offers that seem to good to be true and to let Essex Police know if you believe you’re being targeted for a scam.”
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.
Essex Police also caution residents to be aware of common scams relating to unemployment insurance benefits. These scams can include callers asking you to pay a fee, fraudulent websites, fraudulent emails or text messages, false job offerings or paid online surveys, or scams involving the use of the Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance debit card. Click here to learn more about unemployment insurance-related scams.
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 Essex Police Department.