WATERBURY, VT - Several Vermont law enforcement agencies have been investigating numerous phone scams. At this time, there are several reported incidents that tend to fall into one of three types of scams: lottery/winnings, home security, or debt collector/money fraud.
The targeted victims' profiles vary by scam, but the victims all report the fraudulent caller as having a heavy accent and, in several incidents, threatening and hostile. Due to the increasing frequency and similarities of these scams, police are asking the public to be aware of the issue and report any incidents they feel are inappropriate to their local law enforcement agency.
Police encourage citizens to protect themselves against fraud, and visit the Federal Trade Centerâ€™s website on phone fraud: http://www.ftc.gov/phonefraud to learn how to:
Â· Recognize the most common telemarketing scams.
Â· Report phone fraud, providing important information to help law enforcement officials bring scammers to justice.
Â· Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Lottery Winnings Scam
Elderly victims have been contacted via telephone by individuals claiming to be from a lottery-type organization.
There are several variations of this scam, but in it the victims are being told they have won a prize and, in order to receive it, they must pay the taxes and shipping. The victims are then told to send the money via Western Union, wire transfer through a third party, or pre-paid cash cards. The individuals then intimidate the victims into becoming third party recipients of these transfers for other victims. In one incident, the victim received an email notifying her of her winnings first and then began receiving phone calls requesting her to send money out-of-state to obtain her prizes. (Source: Vermont State Police â€“ St. Johnsbury & Lyndonville Police Department)
Home Security Scam
Victims are receiving phone calls from individuals claiming to be with GE Security. Details varied in the calls but, in all, the victims were informed they could receive a free security system. The individuals are asking for the victimâ€™s personal information and credit card information for initial deposits. Individuals in the Newport area have been targeted in this scam. (Source: Richmond Police Department & Vermont State Police â€“ Brattleboro)
Debt Collector or Money Fraud
This is a nationwide fraud scheme specifically targeting victims who have obtained a â€śpayday loanâ€ť online from a company located outside the U.S. The victim obtains the loan and shortly thereafter receives numerous calls from an individual claiming to be a debt collector and has details of the victimâ€™s personal information.
The callers identify themselves with various titles (e.g. investigator, officer) and claim they work for legal or collection firms with variations of â€śAnderson Legalâ€ť or â€śAmerican Legal.â€ť The victims are threatened with legal consequences including arrest by law enforcement.
In a similar scam, the victim is contacted by an â€śattorneyâ€ť advising that the target is being charged with money fraud and has an active lawsuit against him or her. The â€śattorneyâ€ť has the victimâ€™s bank account information already and advises the victim to send a cash settlement to dismiss the lawsuit. When refused, the â€śattorneyâ€ť becomes threatening and tells the victim he is going to his or her house to collect the money. (Source: Federal Protective Service & Lyndonville Police Department)