What do the below statements have in common? They are all FAKE, PHONY, and FRAUDULENT.
- You receive a phone call from a government official claiming you have a subpoena or an outstanding bill and need to pay money immediately or you will be arrested.
- You receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be a relative, or someone stating they are with your relative, and they are in trouble. They are requesting money to help or save your relative’s life.
- You receive a letter in the mail stating someone knows “what you did” and will release all of the “secrets” they have on you unless you pay them a certain amount of money.
- You are offered payment for goods or services by placing a large check written by a requester into your bank account then writing a smaller check from your banking account to a requestor.
Across cities and towns in the United States, people have been receiving letters in the mail and telephone calls containing some of the above statements and information. The letter may be sent by someone with a familiar name or address. The telephone number calling may appear to be from your area or area code and first three digits of your phone number.
You read the letter or listen to the person on the other end of the phone and become scared and frightened. Out of desperation, you follow the provided instructions and proceed to send large amounts of cash or store gift cards to a Post Office Box in another state or make a bank transfer from your bank account to the bank account of the requester. You may even accept and place a check written for a large amount of money into your bank account then write a check for a smaller amount of money and send it to the requester, hoping to keep the remaining balance.
Unfortunately, in all the above situations, you have become the victim of FRAUD, you have LOST YOUR MONEY, and chances are that YOU WILL NEVER SEE YOUR MONEY AGAIN.
The reality is this:
- A government official will NEVER CALL YOU requesting money for an outstanding subpoena or tax problem.
- A relative is likely not calling you for help. It is a scammer, a person claiming to be a relative or a friend or a relative, trying to get money from you.
- No one knows what you did, and no one is going to release any information. This is blackmail.
- The check you received in the mail is BAD – IT WILL BOUNCE and YOU WILL LOSE ANY MONEY YOU WRITE TO THE REQUESTER.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim on the above:
- If you get a call from someone claiming to be a government official asking for money, HANG UP ON THEM. Do not provide any information – date of birth, social security number, or driver's license number. Contact the government agency by looking for information at their website.
- If you receive a telephone call from a relative stating they are in trouble, or someone claiming to be with your relative who is in trouble, HANG UP ON THEM and call the relative directly on a phone number you know, not one you are given. Chances are the relative is fine, and if they are not, they should let you know when you call and explain the situation.
- If you receive a letter in the mail stating someone knows “what you did”, IGNORE IT. Do not contact anyone listed in the letter, do not provide any of your personal identifying information, and do not send any form of payment (cash, checks, gift cards, et.)
- Never accept a check for more than the amount due from an unknown party, NEVER place the check into your account, and never write a check based off the funds issued in the check you received. YOU WILL LOSE MONEY and the check you received will bounce
People who commit the above fraudulent activities are playing off your emotions, tugging at your heartstrings, and trying to get you so overwhelmed with confusion and frustration that you eventually succumb to their requests and give them your money. Many times these people are operating in foreign countries and have middle-people working in the United States who forward any monies sent.
Investigating these crimes is difficult and next to impossible and you have a very low chance of seeing your money again. However, you have a very high chance of becoming a victim of identity theft by releasing all your personal identifying information, including your social security number, driver’s license number, and date of birth.
Despite what may be said to you in a letter or over the telephone, these activities are all FRAUDULENT, and you will become a victim and will lose any amount of money and personal information you provide.
Finally, if you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be from the Atherton Police Department and you don’t believe them, ask for their call back number, do not provide any information, and hang up the telephone. Then call the Atherton Police Department at 650-688-6500 to confirm the telephone call you received was real.
If you are a victim of fraud or identify theft, have any questions or need any further information, please contact the Atherton Police Department at 650-688-6500.