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KPD issues tips to discourage phone scams

The Police Department often receives reports, both official and anecdotal, of potential telephone scams. The proliferation of rapidly advancing technology to would-be phone scammers now makes it easier for them to disguise their identities, their locations, and the phone number from which they are calling. The burdensome legal requirements that a police department must satisfy in order to compel a telephone carrier to reveal a subscriber’s information, the possibility that the subscriber may mask their identity from their own phone carrier, and the potential for the caller to be outside the jurisdiction of local or U.S. authorities, compounds these issues.

For these reasons, we caution the public that the best way to reduce “successful” telephone frauds is to utilize the following practices to reduce the likelihood of victimization:

  • If you don’t recognize the phone number on your caller ID don’t feel compelled to pick up. If the call is legitimate, they can leave a voicemail and you can call them back. Scammers can use fake caller ID numbers, only a few digits off from your phone number, to trick you into believing that you’re receiving a local call when you’re not.

  • If you receive a recorded or robotic telephone call attempting to elicit a response from you, simply hang up. Phone scammers have recorded victims’ voices while answering voice prompts such as “Can you hear me?” The scammers then try to use the victim’s recorded answer, “Yes,” as a fraudulent authorization for charges.

  • Law enforcement agencies – such as sheriffs, U.S. Marshals, and the IRS – do not call people to demand payment for missing jury duty or for settling debts. These callers can be very aggressive and persuasive, but we promise you they are not legitimate law enforcement officers. Law enforcement agencies deal in-person or in writing. KPD and Kearny PBA never solicit for donations over the phone.

  • Red flags should be raised any time a person calls asking you to fulfill an obligation by purchasing “Green Dot” or other gift cards and reading the authorization numbers to them over the phone. These types of money transfer cards are difficult, if not impossible, to trace. Once you give the stranger the card number, it’s as if you’ve handed them a money order.

  • You have no obligation to answer tough questions; you’re in the driver’s seat of your own phone call. Questions such as, “Don’t you want to help the heroes of 9/11,” or “Don’t your local police deserve your support,” tug at the heart strings and put citizens in an uncomfortable position. Remember, the person on the other side of the phone may be a scammer. One way to ensure your donation is going to the right place is to contact a charity on your own terms rather than getting caught off-guard by an aggressive telemarketer. A simple internet search will tell you how to get in touch with any number of legitimate charities.

  • There are probably times you’ve called your credit card or health insurance companies and been asked to verify your personal information over the phone. This is fine as long as you initiated the call since you know who you’re calling. Never trust anyone with your personal information (e.g. Social Security number, date of birth) who calls you. They may claim to be someone they’re not.

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