MAYNARD — Chief Michael Noble and the Maynard Police Department wish to share tips to protect the community against online scammers after a resident was targeted earlier this week.
The resident received a call from a person pretending to be from Social Security Administration, reporting that there was issue with the woman’s Social Security number. The caller said the issue could be remedied by sending the government a large sum via Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is a virtual encrypted currency. Transactions are anonymous.
The woman traveled to a neighboring town to deposit the money at a Bitcoin ATM. The ATM malfunctioned during the transaction. A clerk recognized the transaction as a scam, and police in that town were notified. It is unlikely the money deposited will be recovered.
“New scams are created all the time, but the scammers follow the same playbook: They create a crisis, prey on people’s fears, and want their money right away,” Chief Noble said. “We ask residents who receive calls like this to take a moment, think about the situation, and call us immediately with any concerns.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers the following four signs to help people recognize possible scams:
- Scammers pretend to be from an organization you know. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company, or even a charity asking for donations.
- Scammers say there’s a problem or prize. They might say you’re in trouble with the government, that you owe money, that someone in your family had an emergency, or that there’s a virus on your computer. Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information. Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.
- Scammers pressure you to act immediately. They might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story. They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say 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 by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.
Maynard Police also remind residents that legitimate organizations do not ask for payment by a gift card, pre-paid debit card or money transfer service. This should be a significant red flag. Pre-paid debit cards and gift cards are not a legitimate way to pay for goods and services. They cannot be traced, and once funds are transferred, the money cannot be recovered.
Additionally, residents are reminded to never give out their personal information, especially Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers.
The FTC also recommends that if you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy, or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.
Report any type of scam or fraud you detect at ftc.gov/complaint, or call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP. For more information about scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website or the state’s website.
Anyone with questions or who believes they have been victimized is encouraged to call the Maynard Police Department at 978-897-1011.