Protecting yourself from scams

Protecting our community is very important to the Whitman Police Department and with this in mind the best protection against a scammer is not trusting people that contact you by phone, mail, e-mail, text message, a virus message on your personal computer or electronic device, by knocking on your door or even by approaching you in a common place like your mail box.  The rise in phone call scams and solicitations by phone has become overwhelming. Below you will read some of the scams we have dealt with right here in Whitman along with a few ideas that can help you to protect yourself.

The Whitman Police Department receives several calls each day on people calling about an unusual phone call or scam; here are some examples to keep in mind:

  • You can receive a message on your computer screen indicating you have a virus and a phone number is provided for you to call to protect you from this virus.  Many of these actually come up on your computer screen as a trusting company like Microsoft.  If you call the number displayed on the screen the individual(s) will request remote access to your computer and if you give them this access they will take control of your computer and potentially anything you have on your computer.  If they are successful in obtaining remote access they can even hijack your computer and force you to pay money in some way before allowing you to regain control.
  • You can receive a phone call from someone reporting they have captured your loved one that is being held hostage until you provide them with money.  These scams can be very traumatic for the person receiving this phone call when in fact you are being scammed because the scammer kept you on the phone long enough to get some personal information that was fed back to you making this event very believable.
  • Some scammers call trying to save you some money or they may have even done a little research on-line and found just a few personal pieces of information about you that make you feel like you can trust this person on the other end of the line.  In reality they are using these the information they found online to gain your trust so that you will open up and provide them with the vital information they need.  They can use your personal information in so many ways to harm your credit or even affect your current accounts.
  • Another scam could come in your mailbox, these scams give you a phone number to call claiming you have won something and ask for your personal information.  These same types of scams can come over your home or cell phone.  It may be a sweepstakes scam that provides you with a large FAKE check then ask for a large amount of money in processing fees.
  • We have also received phone calls from victims that received a phone call from the IRS.  In these calls they report that you have not paid your taxes and state you must pay them or they will be by to arrest you on outstanding taxes and fees.  The IRS will not be calling you making these types of threats, nor do they make arrests for tax delinquency.
  • A caller ID (identifier) can be very helpful in seeing and filtering out unwanted calls but do not let the information on the caller ID alarm you and make you want to answer the phone.  We have received calls from many people reporting that a National Law Enforcement Association or even an Emergency Service Company calls requesting money or personal information.  Some of these calls can be made to look like a company that you may actually do business with.  Keep this in mind and if there is a company you do business with you should confirm their number independently; don’t call any number that has been provided by someone you don’t know.
  • If someone knocks on your door and wants to come in to check on one of your appliances, DO NOT LET THEM IN. In this type of scam there are usually two people involved.  One will distract you while the other one will try to get to your valuables or personal information.
  • Maybe someone stops by your home because they see something that needs repair, for example the roof or the windows.  Do not give them any money to start the job, request a WRITTEN quote on the job and tell them you will call them back.  They may say they will give you a better price because they are already there on this day.  Don’t fall for their scam of taking your deposit or cash and never returning to do any work.

In most cases that we investigate the victims could have protected themselves by listening to their gut instinct when something just didn't seem right.  It is always better to just end the communication as soon as you have an unsettling feeling and NEVER give anyone over the phone access to your computer or any personal information that could be used to open bogus accounts with your personal information.  We hope this information is helpful in preventing you from being scammed. Your best defense is you in these types of scams but if you need help do not hesitate call us at 781-447-1212.