Recently we investigated a case where a resident was victimized by a telephone scam involving the spoofing of the telephone number used by the Meridian Hills Police. Spoofing a very frequently used scam whereby criminals use technology to fraudulently display a known telephone number on your caller ID, thus making the person called believe the caller is someone else, such as a government agency or relative.
In this case the caller made an immediate demand for money to resolve a fictitious legal case and threatened to come to the resident’s home to arrest them if they did not immediately transfer funds and purchase gift cards.
There are many hundred of fraud schemes like this and we want to remind residents to stay alert for these very convincing criminal schemes to steal money or your personal information such as bank account details. Important points to remember:
• The IRS does not conduct business by phone. Anyone calling you demanding money to resolve a tax matter is a criminal.
• Police agencies and courts do not call and demand immediate payment to resolve official government matters, criminal cases or civil disputes.
• Relatives are not likely to be in the hospital, have been kidnapped or have been arrested and need an immediate transfer of money for health care or to be released on bond. I have seen cases where the criminal sends photos of the relative and an audio wave file. All were fictitious.
The way to handle these calls/texts is quite simple – Just hang up or delete them. Hang up immediately, do not provide any information of any type, do not engage with the caller. Just hang up. If the request is coming by text or email. Delete the email – do not respond.
Unfortunately, I have been involved in several investigations involving companies losing large amounts due to business email compromise. For those residents managing business operations, it is particularly important to have policies and procedures in place to respond to any request to change banking details or urgent requests for transfer of funds.
• Do not necessarily believe caller ID. It can be easily spoofed.
• If a caller, email or text attempts to create urgency, anxiety and/or demands an immediate response to provide money, gift cards or any other action for any reason it is likely a scam.
• Calls indicating your relative has been kidnapped, involved in a car accident, in the hospital and immediately need money are likely a scam.
• Emails received by businesses to change bank account details or invoice procedures must be carefully reviewed and include multiple, verified checks before proceeding.
Here are a few government websites providing authoritative information on these scams and how to protect yourself and your business:
Michael S. Russo
Meridian Hills Town Marshal