STONEHAM – Chief James T. McIntyre and the Stoneham Police Department wish to make the community aware of a recent increase in scams targeting area residents, and would like to offer tips to avoid becoming a victim.
In the “grandparent scam,” scammers call an individual and inform them that a relative has been arrested. The scammers request bail payment in cash or gift card, given to a person posing as a courier or bail bondsman who arrives at the victim’s home. Or, the scammers request money be transfers via a wire service, such as Western Union.
Chief McIntyre shares that arrests of relatives can be confirmed with the arresting police department or through the local district court clerk’s office. Bail is never paid via courier or wire service.
The second scam on the rise involves people going door to door pretending to be from a legitimate sealcoating company. The scammers promise a below-market price for the service to entice their target.
The sealcoating scam takes one of three forms:
- The scammers do not finish the job and leave with the money.
- The scammers use low-quality coating or a substance that appears to be coating, which washes away.
- One of the scammers diverts the attention of the homeowner, so that an accomplice may go inside the home and steal valuables.
“We ask residents, especially our senior citizens who are often targeted, to be vigilant when a stranger asks them for money,” Chief McIntyre said. “The instinct that something is wrong is usually correct. Any resident who believes they are being targeted should call the Stoneham Police Department immediately.”
Avoiding the “grandparent scam”
If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money:
- Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
- Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger could not answer.
- Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine.
- Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
- Don’t wire money – or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
- Report possible fraud at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Avoiding the sealcoating scam
- Scammers claim they’ve been performing work locally and have surplus material.
- Scammers frequently offer services at a very low price.
- Be wary if the individual is driving an unmarked motor vehicle.
- Check to make sure the contractor is registered with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by using their home improvement contractor registration look up service.
- Request a business card or website address for the contractor’s business.
- Request a copy of the company’s standard contract.
- Learn where the company is based out of, whether they are a local business and verify a minimum of three references.
- Inquire about whether the company will provide a warranty and how long that warranty will last.
- Remain wary if a severe weather event has just occurred. Scammers often take severe weather storms as an opportunity to target potential victims for home improvement scams.
- Never pay more than one-third the total cost of a service upfront, in cash, and only do so once you have verified that this person is a registered home improvement contractor and you have a contract.
- The Better Business Bureau (BBB) can verify whether the company is a member, and the BBB, as well as the Office of the Attorney General, can also tell you if there have been complaints filed against the company.
Residents who believe they may have fallen victim to such a scam are encouraged to contact the Stoneham Police Department at 781-438-1215.