Chief Terence M. Delehanty and the Winthrop Police Department are issuing a warning about a recent sharp increase in scam phone calls received by residents.
Like similar existing scams, a caller tells residents that they represent a legitimate company or agency, such as a National Grid, the Internal Revenue Service or a computer company and demands payment for overdue bills or taxes, or offers illegitimate repair services for a fee.
In many cases, the scammer demands payment via electronic money order or pre-paid debit card. This should be an immediate red flag. No legitimate company or agency will ever demand money via these means. The IRS will never call you by phone to collect unpaid taxes.
Sending money via money order or pre-paid debit card is as good as sending cash, and if money is sent to a criminal, it is gone forever and cannot be recovered.
Chief Delehanty warns that residents should NEVER give personal information, social security numbers, or credit card numbers to people who call their homes or cell phones unsolicited.
Winthrop public safety officials have placed a recorded call to residents to alert them directly about the increase in scam calls in an attempt to prevent anyone from becoming a victim.
"These types of calls are fake, and the people placing them are attempting to victimize residents by making them fear that their utilities will be shut off, that they will be arrested or that their computers have become infected with a virus," Chief Delehanty said. "Anyone who receives these types of calls should hang up immediately."
Common telephone scams that target residents — especially seniors — include:
- IRS Impostors: Callers contact you demanding immediate payment for back taxes.
- Arrested Relative: Scammers contact you claiming that a friend or relative has been arrested and needs bail money.
- Kidnapped Relative: Scammers call to report a friend or relative has been kidnapped and a ransom must be paid.
- Threatened Arrest: Scammers call to tell you that you are subject to arrest (by a variety of different agencies: U.S. Marshals, FBI, local police etc.) and must pay to avoid arrest.
- Utility Scam: Scammers pose as bill collectors from utility companies and threaten to shut off service if you do not pay. These types of scams will often target businesses as well as residents.
- Sweepstakes: Someone calls to notify you that you have won a contest or sweepstakes and must send money to collect any winnings.
- Tech Support/Malware: Someone contacts you claiming your computer needs repairs and to send money for service or asks to connect to your computer. Additionally, a pop-up can appear on your computer, stating that it is infected with malware, and to call a number to pay to remove the virus.
If anyone has questions or feels that they may have been victimized, they are encouraged to call Winthrop Police at 617-846-1212.