Riverside Sheriff’s officials address increase in telephone and other scams
After experiencing an increase in reports regarding telephone, financial and other scams, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is reminding all citizens to be critical of unsolicited telephone calls from potentially fraudulent businesses, banking institutions, foreign countries, or government agencies, especially where promises or threats are made.
Numerous fraudulent schemes have recently been reported, according to sheriff’s officials. The scams involve a variety of methods, including mortgage assistance, outstanding tax collection, foreign government assistance, and companies promising to return lost money have impacted citizens throughout the county. Sheriff’s officials stated these scams almost always request money be paid up front for services, or involve the threat of arrest, eviction or property seizure.
Sheriff’s official covered some of the most popular scams, including scams involving the IRS and Treasury Inspector, jury duty scams by people impersonating law enforcement officers or court officials, overdue bill scams by people posing as utility or service providers, scams involving seniors, counterfeit check cashing scams and curb painting scams.
Sheriff’s officials detailed how many well-known scams work and how scammers victimize citizens.
Internal Revenue Service
IRS Scammers have recently been targeting citizens with threats of arrest or liens against property for failing to pay past tax debts. The scammers often will try to obtain credit card information or instruct the citizen to get a “Green Dot” debit card for the supposed “outstanding tax debt.” Once scammers are able to obtain the card information, the funds are immediately withdrawn.
“The IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes. And the IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration”
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
Another popular scam involves the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The TIGTA website recommends if you get a call from someone claiming they are an IRS agent or employee asking or demanding a payment, here’s what sheriff’s officials advise you to do:
-If you owe Federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
-If you don’t owe taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website, www.treasury.gov/tigta
or call TIGTA at (800) 366-4484.
-You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission atwww.FTC.gov.
Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.
The IRS and TIGTA encourage taxpayers to be alert for phone and e-mail scams that use the IRS name. The IRS will never ask for personal or financial information by e-mail, texting or any social media. You should forward scam e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sheriff’s officials also caution against opening any attachments or clicking on any internet links in those e-mails or from any e-mail received from unknown origin.
Jury Duty: Impersonating Law Enforcement or Court Systems
In one type of popular scheme, a caller claims they are a member of law enforcement, or the court system, according to sheriff’s officials. The victim is often told he or she has an arrest warrant for failing to appear for jury duty.
The caller often demands payment for the warrant via credit card information, or a Green Dot card. In many cases, the suspect typically remains on the phone with the victim while he or she travels to the store to get a Green Dot card. The suspect often instructs the victim they are not to discuss who they are talking with or what they are doing.
After obtaining the numbers to the Green Dot card, the suspect immediately withdraws the money deposited to the card. While warrants can be issued for failing to appear for jury duty, it would never be handled over the phone by requesting the victim obtain a Green Dot card.
“No Riverside County Court or Sheriff’s Department employee will ever contact the public and ask for financial information or payment in lieu of attending court proceedings, or to make up for failure to appear for jury duty.”
Overdue Bill: Impersonating Utility or Service Provider Companies
In another common scheme, the caller claims they represent a utility company or a service provider-type business. The victim is told their bill is overdue, or a meter needs to be replaced at the victim’s expense. The caller will often demand immediate payment for the overdue bill, or installation of a new meter. The scammers claim if payment is not received, the victim’s service will be shut off. The caller demands credit card information or a Green Dot card as described in the first scheme.
“This is also a fraudulent call. The caller is not connected with any utility or service providers. Victims are encouraged to advise the caller they will call the utility company directly, and end the phone call. You should then contact the utility company through legitimate and verified numbers.”
Many elderly community members have recently reported receiving suspicious telephone calls from young people claiming to be their grandchildren. These callers often ask for money for medical expenses, to avoid arrest, post bail, to purchase food, for needed automotive repair or some other plausible reason.
Sheriff’s officials strongly encourage potential victims to contact their local law enforcement agency, or an allied government agency, before providing these callers any money or personal information.
“Older community members are most often targeted and victimized in these cases. Riverside County residents who are 65 years or older, or dependent adults, 18 to 64-years-old, can contact the Department of Public Social Services Adult Services Division CARE (Curtailing Abuse Related to the Elderly) Program at any time for assistance.”
CARE provides education to seniors and dependent adults, and one-on-one advocacy to those who need assistance filing complaints with regulatory or investigating agencies.
Sheriff’s officials encourage seniors who believe they have been or are potentially being scammed to contact members of the CARE Program (Curtailing Abuse Related to the Elderly) at (800) 476-7506. Reports can also be filed via the internet at: http://dpss.co.riverside.ca.us/adult-services-…/care-program
Curb Painting Services
Another reported scam involves curb painting services. Curb painting service notices are often found on residents’ doorsteps. The notices typically request a voluntary donation from residents to repaint home address numbers on the curb. While curb painting itself is not illegal, some flyers claim to be using the funds to help disabled people, needy children or some other charity. Sheriff’s officials remind citizens these alleged charitable companies can potentially be scams.
Residents are not required to have home address numbers painted on their curb, although having clearly visible home address numbers in front of your residence or business can assist emergency first responders, in the event of an emergency.
“If you observe an unauthorized paint crew operating in your neighborhood or if you are harassed by an individual asking for payment for curb painting services, please report the activity to your local law enforcement agency or call (800) 950-2444.”
Residents are under no obligation to pay for any services rendered, according to sheriff’s officials. Additionally, in all cases involving charitable donations, residents should verify the charitable institution prior to donating money or property. Recognized charitable institutions can be verified on the IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/…/Exempt-Organizations-Business-Master-…
Counterfeit Check Scams
In counterfeit check scams, the caller will often offer to buy an item being sold by the victim for more than the amount being requested. Sometimes, the scammer will even offer several hundred dollars or more for the item being sold, according to sheriff’s officials. These scammers will then use a counterfeit check to pay for the item.
“Once the check is delivered, the check scammer claims they mistakenly overpaid the agreed-upon amount. The scammer then simply requests the recipient/victim cash or deposit the check and return the difference of over-payment via a money order or cash.”
Several days later when the check is processed by the victim’s bank, they receive a call or email from the bank, informing them the check deposited was counterfeit, sometimes causing the account to become overdrawn.
Tips to Avoid Fake Check Scams
Here are tips provided by the sheriff’s department to avoid check scams:
–Confirm before you withdraw cash:
A check can take several days to clear. Until the check is processed and cleared by the bank, you are responsible for any funds withdrawn against it. To make sure the check cleared, contact your bank or check your daily balance through the internet, if your bank provides that feature.
-Be wary of checks received from unknown individuals:
When selling to someone you don’t know, it is safer to accept PayPal, cash or credit card payments. Any check, even checks from trusted friends or family could potentially be fraudulent.
–Do not accept over-payments:
When selling on Craigslist.org or similar sites, don’t agree to accept a check for more than the sales price, no matter what convincing story the buyer tells you. There is almost no justifiable reason for a person you do not know to ask you to accept, deposit or cash a check for more than the amount expected or requested.
-Check your online bank statements frequently:
Don’t wait for your monthly statements. If you see something you don’t recognize, call your financial institution immediately.
For More Information
You can read more about check scams and online banking on National Consumers League’s Fraud.org. Tips for avoiding other common fraud schemes can be located on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website: www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud. You can also report criminal activity at the FBI online Tips and Public Leads form.
Additional information to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud can be found at:
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