By Martin McCoy, Chief of Police, Auburn Police Department
Sadly, scams seem to be on the rise. In the past week alone, the Auburn Police Department (APD) has responded to several calls involving scams. We’ve seen a couple types:
- Phone scams where the suspect claims that your close relative is incarcerated and asks that money be sent for bail.
- Form letters that arrive via U.S.P.S. claiming to be the Publishers Clearing House and advising the recipient that he/she has won a large sum of money. Letters are followed by a call asking that funds be sent to process the transaction. Though the fake Publishers Clearing House document looks official, we have confirmed that it is not legitimate.
Both types of scams normally target senior citizens and the elderly.
With an increase in these activities, we want to remind everyone of what to look for and how to handle any potential scams.
Signs of a scam
According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers who operate by phone don’t want to give you time to think about their pitch. They just want you to say “yes.” But some are so cunning that, even if you ask for more information, they seem happy to comply. They may direct you to a website or send information featuring “satisfied customers.” These customers, known as shills, are likely as fake as their praise for the company.
The following phrases should be considered red flags:
- “You’ve been specially selected (for this offer).”
- “You’ll get a free bonus if you buy our product.”
- “You’ve won one of five valuable prizes.”
- “You’ve won big money in a foreign lottery.”
- “You have to make up your mind right away.”
- “We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.”
How to respond
- Resist pressure to make a decision immediately.
- Keep your credit card, checking account or Social Security numbers to yourself. Don’t tell them to callers you don’t know — even if they ask you to “confirm” this information.
- Don’t give them your date of birth either.
- Don’t pay for something just because you’ll get a “free gift.”
- Get all information in writing before you agree to buy.
- Check out a charity before you give. Ask the caller to send you written information so you can make an informed decision without being pressured, rushed or guilted into it.
- Don’t send cash by messenger, overnight mail or money transfer. If you use cash or a money transfer—rather than a credit card—you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges.
- Don’t agree to any offer for which you have to pay a “registration” or “shipping” fee to get a prize or a gift.
- Before depositing checks that you may receive or sending any checks, verify the legitimacy of the contest/offer with the police or your local bank.
Call the APD anytime you suspect that you have been targeted or have become a victim of a scammer. You can also call 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint.