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The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation compiles publicly available scam, identity theft, and fraud complaints from around the Commonwealth via police logs, news outlets, and other sources, as well as through the Office’s Consumer Information Hotline. Below is a quantitative analysis of the log by category followed by tips on how to spot and avoid certain scams, identity theft, and fraud.

PIE CHART - JUNE 2015 Scam Log Analysis

Police Phone Scams

What it looks like

There are many types of scams over the phone, but here are a few things that have been happening regarding police departments: You receive a call from someone saying they are from the local or state police department demanding they need money, for local police associations, to help pay for advertising for the department, or to aid in an ongoing investigation. What makes this issue more confusing for consumers is that the scammer has some kind of device to make the phone number and name of the police department show up on their caller id. The consumer thinks that it really is the police department calling.

Tips to spot police phone scams

  1. If you do receive a call from the police department asking for donations for their annual fundraising efforts, they will not be demanding or put you in a high pressure situation. If you find yourself in a high-pressure situation, be skeptical, and do not be afraid to just hang up.
  2. If you are told that the money is for local police associations, ask what associations they are for. If you do not recognize any of them, ask to call them back so you can do your homework and find out about the associations yourself. You should also consider contacting the actual police department, which can verify what associations they support.
  3. If you are told that the money is to aid an on-going investigation or department advertising, be skeptical. Hang up and call the actual police department to see if they can verify where all of their fundraising efforts go to.

What to do if you receive police phone scam calls

  1. Report the calls and file a report to your local police department. This will allow them to alert the community that this potential scam is happening.
  2. If the caller is pushy, rude, or demanding, be wary and do not feel bad about just hanging up.
  3. Contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission to report the scam.

 

IRS Scam

What it looks like

“Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.”

Tips to avoid the IRS scam

  1. The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  1. The IRS will never demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  1. The IRS will never require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card. The will also not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  1. The IRS will never threaten to have you arrested for not paying.

 

What to do if IRS fraud happens

  1. Report this to the IRS by emailing them at: phishing@irs.gov. For more information, visit the IRS’s Report Phishing web page.
  2. File a police report.
  3. File a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission – ftccomplaintassistant.gov

(The quoted information and tips are from the IRS web site.)

Lottery Scam

What it looks like

A consumer gets a call telling him he has won thousands of dollars in an unsolicited lottery. To collect his money, he would need to pay a “temporary bond required by the government” or “front the taxes” to process the claim. The consumer involved sent personal checks and money transfers over the course of several weeks, thinking that soon he would be sent his winnings. Instead of winning thousands of dollars, he had been scammed out of thousands of dollars.

Tips to avoid lottery scams

  1. If you did not put your name in to win a lottery, then you did not win any lottery.
  2. If you do actually win a lottery, the taxes that you owe to the IRS will be taken out first before you are given your winnings. You will not be required to send personal checks or use a money transfer to pay a bond to the government.
  3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before you get excited about winning a lottery, investigate the lottery. Is it a legitimate lottery? Are the phone numbers listed actual numbers and not numbers that have been disconnected?

What to do if you get a lottery call scam

  1. Report this scam and file a complaint at your local police department.
  2. File a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission – ftccomplaintassistant.gov
  3. Contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and file a complaint.
  4. Consider calling the Mass Lottery for further information about lotteries in Massachusetts.

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