As the holiday season approaches, the Morgantown Police Department is reminding all citizens to be wary of sharing personal information over the telephone or the internet or when conducting financial transactions.
Local law enforcement, including the Morgantown Police Department, does not solicit the collection of money on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Should you receive a phone call from someone presenting themselves as a law enforcement officer collecting money on behalf of the Federal Government or demanding immediate payment, do not provide any personal information to the caller. Hang up immediately.
Foreign law enforcement agencies contact family members regarding the incarceration of American citizens through the U.S. State Department. Do not provide any credit card or personal information should you be contacted by someone requesting bail money from a foreign country.
Legitimate businesses that conduct product give-a-way and sweepstakes contests contact winners of these contests through the entry form process. If you have not entered a sweepstakes or a contest your information will be on file with the contest company. Do not provide personal or financial information to any company that has contacted you over the phone.
More disturbing is the scams that prey on the elderly where a victim receives a phone call and the caller pretends to be a grandchild in need of bail in order to be freed from police custody. The caller directs the victim to obtain a pre-paid credit card, green dot card, iTunes card, etc. and give the caller the numbers from the cards. Never obtain pre-paid cards and provide the card information to a caller.
Other scams that have been reported include when the caller claims to be from a security company reporting an alarm being activated at the victim’s residence. The caller then attempts to gain personal information to confirm the identity of the victim so as not to have to send police, fire or emergency medical personnel or they are requesting the victim to press numbers on the phone. Do not provide any information or press any numbers on a telephone dial pad.
Caller ID lets consumers avoid unwanted phone calls by displaying caller names and phone numbers, but the caller ID feature is sometimes manipulated by “spoofers” who masquerade as representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, or even the government. The Federal Communications Commission defines spoofing as when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information, so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally. U.S. law and FCC rules prohibit most types of spoofing.
You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be careful about responding to any request for personal identifying information. There are some basic tips you can follow to protect yourself against these scams:
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book or on the company or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
This Public Service Announcement is provided to help prevent anyone from becoming a victim of this latest phone scam. Report suspected phone scams to the FCC by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC or online here: