By Chief Steven J. Wojnar
Dudley Police Department
A variety of financial “scams” continue to occur frequently in our area. People can be asked to send money to various locations or provide personal or bank information. These can take place in person, on-line, over the phone, or by mail. As a result, people may be out large sums of money. This last week, two were reported to our office. I have addressed these in the past, however; I thought it was important to remind people of these situations once again.
Money and identity scams have been occurring for many years. Those responsible prey on unsuspecting individuals, particularly the elderly. Their goal is to obtain either quick cash or other personal information, such as bank account numbers. Armed with this documentation, the criminal can commit identity theft and access your finances. Some scams will inform the victim they have won a prize or that they are eligible for some gift or benefit. They will ask the victim to provide personal information or send money to designated places. This information can then be used to open accounts or conduct other identity theft crimes.
Recently, a local resident was contacted by phone from “Publishers Clearing House.” The person was told they “won” several million dollars. The only catch was some advance fees must be paid and they ask the victim to send a check for approximately $1,500. They were then told, soon after this is received, the “big check,” we all have seen on television, would arrive for them. This is a scam. When a similar incident was reported to us in the past, I spoke with the “scammer.” I offered them to use our police station lobby as a meeting point for the check presentation. They obviously never showed.
According to Publishers Clearing House, if you have won over $500 they will not call you. You will most often be visited by their prize team or contacted specifically by express mail. You will not be asked for personal information or payments in advance. Rarely, if ever, are people legitimately asked for sensitive information over the phone or by email. Most government offices, financial institutions, or legitimate businesses will contact you by mail or deal with you in person when they have the opportunity.
In another situation, a person received a call stating a family member of theirs was arrested in a foreign country. The victim is told their loved one (child, grandchild, etc.) is being held against their will or threatened with physical harm. Money is to be sent immediately in order to ensure the family member’s safety. Large amounts of money can be requested, but often the scammers appear willing to negotiate. These are also false.
It is best not to conduct business transactions unless you are sure of the people and places you are dealing with. Speak with your bank, a family member / trusted friend, or the police if you ever have a concern. This includes transactions on-line. Our station parking lot and lobby are designated areas to conduct online or other business if it is needed. If you receive unexpected calls that you have won a prize and they request for money or other personal information, it is likely a scam. Be very cognizant of these occurrences, protect your personal information, and report anything suspicious to the proper authorities.
Thanks again for your questions and comments. Please send them to me at the Dudley Police Department 71 West Main St. Dudley, Ma. 01571 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this weekly column are those of Chief Wojnar only and unless clearly noted, do not reflect the ideas or opinions of any other organization or citizen.