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Monrovia Police Warns Public of Telephone Scams


The Monrovia Police Department would like to alert the public to several telephone scams that are currently targeting the public. The scams are known as the IRS Scam, the Southern California Edison Scam, the Grandparent scam, and the Telephone Scam Targeting the Elderly.

Internal Revenue Service Telephone Scam
As the 2014 filing season nears an end, the Internal Revenue Service today issued another strong warning for consumers to guard against sophisticated and aggressive phone scams targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, as reported incidents of this crime continue to rise nationwide. These scams won’t likely end with the filing season so the IRS urges everyone to remain on guard.

The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail. The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone. For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box.

People have reported a particularly aggressive phone scam in the last several months. Immigrants are frequently targeted. Potential victims are threatened with deportation, arrest, having their utilities shut off, or having their driver’s licenses revoked. Callers are frequently insulting or hostile - apparently to scare their potential victims. Potential victims may be told they are entitled to big refunds, or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.

Other characteristics of this scam include:
• Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
• Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
• Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
• Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
• Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
• After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
• If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
• If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
• You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes. Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov. More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.

Southern California Edison Telephone Scam
Utility bill scammers are once again targeting customers throughout the United States by phone and sometimes even email. In both scenarios, the scammers often request personal information and threaten to cut off electrical service if they do not receive immediate payment.

Some Southern California Edison (SCE) customers have reported receiving these suspicious emails that look like a bill. Others have reported aggressive phone scams threatening immediate service disconnection if customers don’t pay a purported overdue bill.

“SCE never uses high-pressure tactics to collect or demand money for past due bills,” said Marlyn Denter, SCE’s manager of Consumer Affairs. “We are not in the business of threatening our customers with the immediate termination of service.” This latest email scam follows a recent utility phone scam where more than 2,000 SCE customers were targeted. Unfortunately, more than 300 customers have fallen victim to the scam, many of them mom and pop business owners and entrepreneurs whose first language is not English. The scammers often demand immediate payment through a prepaid cash card or debit card. The average loss for SCE business customers last year was between $800 and $1,000; residential customer lost an average of between $300 and $500. Overall, the total losses so far for SCE customers are estimated at $225,000. “We ask our customers to be alert to these scams that demand immediate payment and threaten service disconnection,” said Denter. If SCE customers receive suspicious emails, they should never click on any links or attachments, and never send a reply. Customers should also delete the email. If a customer has been victimized, they can report it online to the U.S. Department of

Justice’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force at StopFraud.gov.
SCE customers suspecting a fraudulent call should ask for the caller’s name, department and business phone number. If the caller refuses to provide this information, customers should terminate the call and report the incident immediately to local police. In either situation, customers should contact SCE at 800-655-4555.

Southern California Edison Scam
This particular scam targets businesses. The Suspects in this scam call the business claiming to be in billing or collections for SCE and/or Verizon. The caller tells the business their services are going to be shut off within 45 minutes to an hour, and a crew has been dispatched to cut off service unless a same-day payment is made immediately. They claim their records show the business is late on their payment and the service to the business will be affected within the hour. The caller then requests payment by a prepaid VISA or Money Pak Card and tells the business where they are available. A number of businesses in Monrovia have been taken by the scam and the loss is usually about $500-$800. The suspects sound seemingly legitimate and are targeting businesses, as businesses typically cannot afford to be without phones or power over the weekend. This is NOT normal SCE or Verizon protocol, SCE and Verizon do not shut off service on the weekends.

Grandparent Scam 
The suspects in this type of scam will call an elderly person and pretend to be a grandchild or young relative of the victim. They tell the elderly victim they are in some type of trouble and are in jail, and that they need bail money. They ask the elderly person not to tell their parents. A second suspect then calls pretending to be the police and proceeds to give the victim instructions on were to wire the bail money.

The suspects target older folks, hoping they can gain an emotional and quick response to the "need" to help out the young relative, and many times it works. The victims will quickly go to their bank, withdraw and transfer the money in an attempt to help, and by the time they realize the scam, the money has already been picked up by the suspects and is gone.

It is so important to spread awareness and to educate those that we know in hopes of preventing this crime from happening. If you have a loved one, a friend, or perhaps a neighbor that is older, share this information with them and help keep them from becoming a victim.

Telephone Scam Targeting the Elderly
The Monrovia Police Department has received several calls from elderly Monrovia citizens reporting the following telephone scam:

The elderly victim receives a call stating they owe money for an outstanding debt. The suspect soon states if they don’t pay this debt, a warrant could be issued for their arrest, their bank account will be put on hold, and there is a possibility they will lose their house. The suspect then tells the victim if they want to resolve the matter, they need to purchase a Greendot prepaid money card with a certain amount, usually not more than $500.00. Once the victim obtains the card, they are to call back and give the card number so it can be verified. The suspect then transfers the money from the victim’s card to another card and the money is gone. If the victim falls for the scam, the suspect sometimes calls back and tries to solicit additional money from the victim.

Please be aware of this scam and let others know this is going on so we can prevent this crime. Please inform your loved ones, especially the elderly, as they are the targets of this particular scam. Let them know to never give out personal information to anyone over the phone. A legitimate company would not operate by asking for personal information over the phone; they would have your information already.

Source: Monrovia Police Department

- Brad Haugaard

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