This special SMPD Scam Alert comes directly from our Officers on the “front line” at SMPD – Our Officers felt compelled to share this information with you to help prevent further fraud in our community!
SMPD is continuing to see scams in which the caller claims to be a law enforcement officer, and tells the unsuspecting victim that they have a “Bench Warrant” for their arrest, and that they need to make payment ASAP by wiring money or purchasing Money Cards to provide to the suspect. These suspects have also claimed to be involved with red-light camera systems. Regardless of the type of scam – our investigators offer this consistent advice – DO NOT WIRE MONEY OR PURCHASE MONEY CARDS ON CALLS LIKE THIS – IT’S A SCAM!
LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES DO NOT OPERATE THIS WAY!
The number one advice on cold-call requests for you to wire a stranger money from FRAUD EXPERTS:
NEVER simply wire money or provide money card information to a random caller, email, or mail request without making a follow-up call to that caller’s employer. DO NOT call the number the caller gives you. Look up the number yourself for the company or public agency asking you to make payment, and ask the company or agency directly about the call and request!
FAKE DEBT COLECTORS
In January, San Mateo Police received several reports where victims received unsolicited calls from unknown suspects, who identified themselves as employees of official sounding financial businesses or agencies (like the IRS, for example), demanding that the victim wire or send money for a non-existent debt. The suspects threatened to have the victims arrested and deported if they did not pay these non-existent debts. The suspects called repeatedly in an effort to pressure the victims. Although none of the victims actually had any outstanding debts, some had recently obtained pay-day loans. The victims did wire or send money to the suspects before becoming suspicious and contacting SMPD.
PG&E – RELATED SCAM
SMPD noticed another prevalent scam that is also continuing. This scam involves a suspect claiming to be employed or contracted by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) telephoning the victim to collect delinquent balances. The suspect threatens to turn off the victim’s electricity within 45 minutes unless the victim pays PG&E (the suspect) the amount due. The suspect tells the victim they must purchase a pre-paid money card, and provide the suspect with the serial number/access number. San Mateo victims have lost hundreds of dollars to this scam as well.
Anyone receiving a telephone call of this nature should contact PG&E directly to confirm the status of their account and the validity of the telephone call BEFORE doing anything else. Even if you are delinquent on your PG&E payments, do not believe anyone attempting to collect money via unofficial means. Handle all business with PG&E through official channels. PG&E’s website is www.pge.com, which has an online bill pay option. PG&E representatives can also be contacted via 1(800)743-5000.
With any scam:
- If it doesn’t sound right, it’s probably not right.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
Scam suspects often have extensive personal information about the victim (including some financial information), had notable accents, identified themselves as lawyers or with other official titles, and claim to work for numerous official sounding company or agency names.
Suspects often ‘spoof’ their phone numbers so that the number that appears on the victim’s caller ID is not actually the correct number.
These suspects tend to prey on members of our community that are either elderly, non-English speaking, or have other characteristics that make them vulnerable to fast-talking and scare tactics.
Instead, call San Mateo Police to report the calls and for advice –
SMPD Dispatch Non-Emergency Number – 650-522-7700
Tips to avoid becoming a victim of a scam:
Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls. If you have questions, call local law enforcement.
- As a rule, you should never respond to a telephone call, email, or mail request to send money through a wire service.
- Be especially wary of anyone trying to get you to purchase money cards like MoneyPak or Green Dot Cards to settle a debt or pay a fine.
- If you are requested to send the money to another country consider it fraud every time!
- If you get a Caller ID number, check the internet to see if there are any scam alerts associated with it.
- If you receive calls that threaten arrest, deportation, etc, contact your local law enforcement or local legal aid agencies for advice.
- Never give any personal information (name, birthdate, social security number, bank account information, etc) over the phone unless you initiate the call.
- Be very wary of ANYONE who is calling you and asking your for personal identifying information that they might be able to use to access your credit or finances.
- If you have questions about possible outstanding debts or want to check your credit report, contact any one of the 3 major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion).
Again – If you have any questions, concerns, or have fallen victim to this scam, please contact the San Mateo Police Department at (650)522-7700.