The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa is issuing an alert regarding a variety of telephone scams. Monday, an Omaha man reported to the BBB that individuals claiming to be with the State Sheriff’s Office and also the Legal Department of the Federal Crime Enforcement Network used coercion and fear tactics to steal $1,400 from him.
At the beginning of October, the consumer received a voice message from a woman with an accent stating that there was a warrant for his arrest. He was instructed to contact an ‘Officer Richard Henderson,’ and the local man reports that, in a panic, he called the number right away. ‘Officer Henderson’ told the consumer that charges had been filed against him by a company from whom he’d received a loan. The man said he was told that if he didn’t pay the $500 fine within twelve hours, an ‘investigator’ would be dispatched to his home to arrest him. The man was instructed to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak card and to call Mr. Henderson with the card’s number, and the consumer complied.
The next week the consumer received another call from Mr. Henderson asking for $500 more because there was a federal law suit against him, this time. The consumer said he only had $400 and purchased another Green Dot card and provided the number on that one too.
On October 14th, the consumer received a third call again asking for $500. He ignored this message because he had no money, but on October 25th, a different person left a threatening message warning him that if he did not call by 5:00 pm with the numbers on a $500 Green Dot card, they would be sending the local sheriff to pick him up and arrest him. This caller “spoofed” the phone number to make it look like the call came from 911 so the consumer thought the call was legitimate. In fear, he gave the access code on the card. After doing this, he heard the voice of the original caller in the background, became suspicious and notified the police who told him that he had been a victim of a scam.
Jim Hegarty, BBB president and CEO said, “This case is typical of phone schemes that thieves are utilizing to steal millions of dollars from consumers across the country. Most, if not all, of these operations are off-shore and beyond the reach of US law enforcement. Once a victim relays the access codes to the thieves, the money is gone and is rarely recovered.”
“We are seeing a significant surge in aggressive calls like this.” Hegarty continued. “Consumers report receiving calls from scammers claiming to be debt collectors who threaten consumers with potential arrest. Sometimes they say they’re representatives of a utility company and threaten to shut off their electricity or water if they don’t immediately pay with a Green Dot Money Pak card.”
“Please, please educate your family members, your friends and your neighbors about these scams,” Hegarty said. “If anyone calls and demands that you to send cash by wire transfer or a Green Dot MoneyPak card, hang up the phone and contact the BBB immediately to report it. It’s very likely that they’re trying to swindle you.”
BBB offers the following tips to anyone contacted by a stranger demanding money:
· If the caller claims to represent a government agency, a debt collector, a utility company or is someone claiming you have won a prize, get the person’s name and affiliation and tell them you will call back. Look up the phone number for the entity they claim they represent. The real agency will be able to tell you if the call is legitimate. Do not rely on phone numbers the callers provide and do not trust caller ID, which criminals can now easily manipulate.
· Do not give a caller any personal information, including banking or Social Security numbers.
· If the call is from a debt collector, ask the caller to provide proof of the debt by mail. If the caller refuses, hang up.
· Never transfer money to a stranger by wire transfers such as Western Union or MoneyGram or by using preloaded money cards such as Green Dot MoneyPaks. Such payments can be virtually impossible to trace. Only send money to people you actually know and for reasons you are completely sure are legitimate. If you are asked to keep the transfer a secret for any reason, don’t send it!
· If a caller threatens you in any way, contact police.
· If you are unsure about whether a call is legitimate, contact BBB at 800-649-6814 or 800-856-2417(KS only), the police or your Attorney General’s Office.