The police department in Falls Church says scammers are calling people, threatening them with arrests to get their money and personal information.
The city sent out an alert yesterday (Wednesday) about the scam after several residents reported callers said the residents had outstanding arrest warrants.
“The caller claims to be an officer with the City of Falls Church Police Department and demands immediate payment for an alleged fine,” the city’s announcement said. “Through threats and intimidation, the caller attempts to convince residents to purchase prepaid debit cards and provide the identification numbers which allows the scammers to obtain the money from the cards.”
The alert said that people who get a call from someone claiming to be from the city’s police department should hang up and call the police non-emergency line at 703-241-5053 (TTY 711).
“The City of Falls Church Police Department is reminding citizens that agency representatives have never and will never call to solicit funds or collect fines,” the alert said.
Here’s advice from the police department on how to spot spam calls:
- be suspicious of unsolicited calls
- never use the phone number from the caller to verify their credibility
- never give money or personal information to the caller
- if a call makes you suspicious, hang up
Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash
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As concerns grow about the coronavirus, state and county officials, along with Dominion Energy, want residents to beware scams related to the virus.
“As the coronavirus public health emergency continues, scam artists are taking advantage [of] the situation,” one of the many alerts from Fairfax County said.
Coronavirus Scam Prevention
Due to Virginia’s declared state of emergency, the county noted that it is unlawful of suppliers to sell, lease or license any necessary goods and services “at an unconscionable price.”
As of yesterday (Tuesday), spokespeople for Fairfax County and FCPD haven’t received any reports about scams related to the coronavirus.
Earlier in March, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring urged residents to be wary of coronavirus scams, which could include products for sale claiming to prevent the virus, misinformation or fake solicitations for coronavirus victims, according to a press release.
“Unfortunately, scammers oftentimes take advantage of natural disasters or public health fears like the coronavirus to make a buck,” Herring said in the press release.
The press release offered tips for people to combat scams:
- Look out for emails that claim to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that they have information about the coronavirus. For the most updated information you can visit the CDC and the World Health Organization websites.
- Do not click on any links from unknown sources. This could lead to downloading a virus on your computer or phone.
- Ignore any offers, online or otherwise, for a coronavirus vaccine. If you see any advertisements for prevention, treatment or cures ask the question: if there had been a cure for the disease would you be hearing about that through an advertisement or sales pitch?
- Thoroughly research any organizations or charities purporting to be raising funds for victims of the coronavirus.
- Look out for “investment opportunities” surrounding the coronavirus. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission there are online promotions claiming the products or services of certain publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure the disease and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase because of that.
“It is so important that Virginians stay vigilant and do their research before giving their money to anyone purporting to sell preventative medications or raising funds for victims,” Herring said.
Scams Often Target Seniors
Dominion Energy is working with police to get the scammers’ phone numbers shut down, according to Peggy Fox, a Dominion Energy spokesperson.
“Dominion Energy will never make threatening phone calls, demand you pay over the phone or ask you to pay with prepaid cards,” Fox said.
Often, the scammers — claiming to be from Dominion Energy — will call people and threaten to cut off service if payments aren’t made immediately, Fox said.
“They direct their victims to another number and when you call it (which I have) you may hear our Dominion Energy voice recording — which they’ve stolen,” Fox said, adding that they will also tell people to buy pre-paid cards for payment.
Tips from Dominion Energy on how to spot scams:
- While robocall scams can be relatively easy to spot, effective scammers continue to make personal phone calls. Some scammers may employ scare tactics, while others will try to gain your trust by sounding friendly and sympathetic.
- Many utility scammers try to instill fear and a sense of urgency by threatening immediate service disconnection if you don’t provide payment information over the phone or agree to pay your energy bill with a prepaid debit or gift card.
- Dominion Energy does not make calls requesting immediate payment or require customers to pay with prepaid cards of any kind.
- Some utility impostors may falsify their caller ID to appear they are using a local number or even Dominion Energy’s customer service number. When in doubt, hang up and call the number located on your energy bill.
- Don’t let anyone into your home unless you have a previously scheduled appointment or have called about an issue. Always check for proper identification before letting personnel in. Additionally, utility workers won’t ask you to pay an energy bill in person.
- Hang up. Customers can always verify their account balance and payment due date by signing into their dominionenergy.com account or calling 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).
“These scams are widespread in each of the 18 states we serve. They’re relentless in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, where we provide electrical service,” Fox said, adding that they often target seniors.
Additionally, Dominion Energy is waiving reconnection and late fees, along with donating $1 million to relief organizations to help people impacted by the coronavirus.
Suspect It’s a Scammer?
So what happens if a scammer calls? Hang up and call these places.
People who think they’ve received a scam call regarding Dominion Energy should hang up and report the calls to Dominion Energy and the police.
Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash
The police departments for the Town of Vienna and City of Falls Church want people to be careful about phone scammers — especially ones pretending to be local police.
Falls Church officials put out a press release in late November warning locals of “a recent phone scam trend that spoofs, or fraudulently displays, actual Falls Church Police Department phone numbers on caller ID.”
“To further convince the recipient that the caller is a representative of the Falls Church Police Department, the scammer impersonates an actual Falls Church Police Department official and advises the victim to look up the phone number where the call is originating from,” the press release said. “The scammer then uses intimidation tactics, such as the threat of arrest, to demand payment of money purportedly owed to the government.”
Vienna police have also been dealing with the same issue.
“It is very strange,” Juan Vazquez, a spokesperson for the Vienna Police Department, told Tysons Reporter.
Since people are becoming more aware of the IRS phone spoofs, Vazquez said that scammers have realized that those calls aren’t as effective. The fraudulent police calls “are another variation of the same thing,” he said.
Vazquez said he doesn’t know how scammers get the police department numbers to display as the caller ID.
Fishy Phone Calls
A review of the weekly crime highlights from the two police departments found several reported cases of residents receiving calls from people saying they were with the local police department.
In late November, Falls Church police received a report of “unknown suspect(s) purporting to be a retired Falls Church police officer called community members and falsely stated that they had outstanding warrants and demanded money.”
A man came to the Vienna Police Station in September “advising he was on the phone with someone claiming to be a Vienna Police Officer and they were attempting to defraud him of money,” according to a crime report.
“An officer attempted to speak to the caller; however, the caller hung up when the officer identified himself,” the report said. “The phone number the call initiated from was the Vienna Police non-emergency number.”
How to Stay Safe From Scammers
Vazquez advised that if people get a suspicious call claiming to be from the police department, Social Security Administration, IRS or other entity that they ask for the caller’s name, then hang up and call the organization the caller says they’re from to ask to speak to the caller. That way, the person can verify whether or not the person works there.
Falls Church police advise a similar strategy, urging people to call the Falls Church police’s non-emergency number 703-241-5050 (TTY 711) to confirm if the caller is a legitimate official.
“Indicators of scam calls are threats, orders to not hang up and other statements about immediacy,” Falls Church police say. “Never give out personal information — such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, or passwords — in response to unexpected calls if you are at all suspicious.”
Both police departments have said they do not make calls in an attempt to collect money.
“The City of Falls Church Police Department will never call and request payment for fines, traffic tickets, or bail over the phone,” the Falls Church press release said. “All these transactions are conducted by the respective court systems and never over the phone. Police will also never call an individual to threaten arrest or remove an arrest warrant.”
More from Falls Church police:
Caller ID spoofing is a scam that deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise the scammer’s identity as well as appearing as an official organization or entity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally.
Scammers will oftentimes know the victim’s full name and their extensive background, such as birth date and names of family members.
You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed.
People who receive suspicious calls can file a report about attempted fraud with the Fairfax County Police Department and visit the Federal Communications Commission’s “Caller ID Spoofing” webpage for information on spoofing scams.
Photo via Facebook
As the Nationals compete in the World Series, Fairfax County police want people to be careful about where they get their tickets for the games.
“Detectives are investigating an increasing number of online and phone scams involving the sale of World Series tickets,” according to a press release.
The police department has tips for people to avoid scams, including being cautious when buying tickets from sources other than Major League Baseball or authorized dealers.
“Be sure to research the vendor and review their security protocols before providing personal information or payment,” FCPD noted.
Anyone who wants to report a scam can file a report online with the Financial Crimes Section or call 703-691-2131.
Additional tips are available on the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs’ Shopping Online resource page.
The Nats have a game against the Astros tomorrow (Friday).
The Vienna Police Department wants people to beware fraudulent calls from people pretending to be Vienna police officers.
A man reported one such scam call last Friday, Sept. 13, around 1 p.m.
“A man who resides in Fairfax County came to the Vienna Police Station advising he was on the phone with someone claiming to be a Vienna police officer and they were attempting to defraud him of money,” according to a police report.
When a police officer tried to speak to the caller, but “the caller hung up when the officer identified himself,” police said. The phone number that the call came from was the Vienna Police Department’s non-emergency number.
Police told the man that the call was a scam and advised him to report it to the Fairfax County Police Department for the attempted fraud, according to the report.
“Spoofing telephone numbers is a common scam that is used in an attempt to defraud citizens out of money. Our department does not make calls in an attempt to collect money,” the police department said.
If anyone lost jewelry at Caboose Tavern (124 Church Street NE), Vienna police may know of its whereabouts.
“A member of the Vienna Optimists Club advised a citizen found a piece of jewelry and turned it over to them at the Caboose” on Saturday, Sept. 14, according to police.
Photo via Facebook
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