If You Get a Call From This Number, Hang Up Immediately, Police Say in New Warning
THE NUMBER MIGHT APPEAR TRUSTWORTHY AT FIRST GLANCE, BUT IT'S A SCAM.
Scam calls are a run-of-the-mill experience these days. The issue has become so common that sometimes your phone will even alert you to "potential spam." Unfortunately, this hasn't deterred scammers, and the calls continue as they concoct new tactics to steal from you. Now, there's a number you should look out for on your caller ID, police said in a new warning. Read on to find out which caller you need to hang up on immediately.
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Billions are lost to phone scams every year.
Phone scams are often successful because criminals know how to incite fear and tug on your heartstrings. In 2021 alone, nearly 60 million Americans lost a total of $29.8 billion to phone scams, CNBC reported, citing a report from Truecaller. Fraudsters have different tactics to trick you, including capitalizing on natural disasters. Following Hurricane Ian, which hit the East Coast in late September, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Tampa division tweeted about potential charity scams, wherein criminals "use tragedies to exploit you and others who want to help."
Aside from preying on your generosity, criminals also threaten legal action. People have received phone call about family member's subpoenas and even jail time due to missing jury duty. The caller will often claim to be from the police department or use an automated voice to try and intimidate you. With the latest scam, however, criminals are using a new fake identity.
This time, scammers are betting that you'll trust what they say.
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As part of a new con, targets get a call from someone claiming to represent the city or town that they live in. Police in Collinsville, Oklahoma issued a warning to residents, News On 6 reported. According to the outlet, the department has received different phone calls from residents inquiring about warrants for their arrest and whether they owed money, noting that this information had been relayed to them by "someone supposedly from the city."
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You might see a spoofed number.
Those "potential scam" warnings that pop up on your phone are convenient, but they're not foolproof. There are ways for scammers to "spoof" numbers of reputable agencies, like a city office or law enforcement—leading you to believe that the person who's contacting you is legitimate. Thankfully, the Collinsville Police Department told News On 6 that there are some giveaways that you're being scammed.
"The biggest thing I'd watch out for is people asking you to make payments via a gift card whether it be a Visa gift card, iTunes, or Walmart gift card," Matthew Burke, Collinsville Police Chief, said. "An official business or IRS or police department or wherever will not ask you to go to a store and buy gift cards to make the payment."
If you do get one of these calls, Burke recommends hanging up immediately. You should then place a call to the department or entity that allegedly reached out to confirm whether or not you have an outstanding warrant or fines.
These issues won't be resolved any time soon, police say.
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These scams are rampant, and Burke confirmed that there's actually little police can do in these situations, due to the fact that calls often come from different countries. And if you were hoping for a crackdown on phony phone calls, don't get your hopes up just yet.
"It's something that we just deal with constantly, year-round," Burke told News On 6. "It's a never-ending thing, and the best thing we can do is when we hear about a new one that we let people know about the new tactic, let people be aware of it so that way they can vet it themselves."
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It's not limited to one city or town.
Similar city-related fraud attempts have cropped up in different cities, including Bellingham, Washington, where residents were contacted by alleged city officials. The callers requested "personal information," KGMI reported, which police stressed you should never give out. According to CBS-affiliate WFRV, in Appleton, Wisconsin, scammers were brazen enough to impersonate the city's mayor, Jake Woodford. Of course, the mayor was not reaching out, and he later reassured residents that the city wouldn't communicate through text messages. Woodford asked recipients to block the number that sent the text.
Also in Washington, a craftier scam took root, where Lacey residents were contacted and told that they'd won a "Best of Lacey" award. No such award was being given out by the city, local police confirmed, and if you win an award, you typically aren't asked to pay for it, Shannon Barnes, sergeant with the Lacey police, told The Olympian.