LOGAN — A recent surge in scams has local law enforcement agencies sounding an alarm. In at least a couple cases a week, fraudsters are successfully conning thousands of dollars from local residents.
Logan City Police Chief Gary Jensen said many of the victims reported receiving a phone call, stating there was a warrant out for their arrest or a utility bill was due. In almost all cases, the caller was demanding immediate payment.
“They are demanding payment now or else something bad will happen,” explained Jensen. “Their loved one will go to jail because a warrant is out, or their utilities are going to be turned off. It is usually a very emotional caller and they are demanding something be done immediately.”
In many cases, the caller had researched information about the victim online or used personal information about their family or residence to sound believable. They also spoofed their phone number so that it appeared like they were calling from a legitimate company.
Jensen said anytime residents receive similar types of phone calls or emails, stop and evaluate the situation. Ask the caller where they are calling from, and then contact that company on your own to verify the claim.
“Slowdown and diffuse the situation by asking a number of questions. Typically the scammer will become more emotional and more threatening. This is the time that you can be certain that this is a scam phone call. Even private entities or government entities will not get so aggressive and so threatening in these kinds of situations.”
Several romance scams have also occurred recently, where victims reportedly met someone online and began to correspond. As the relationship continued, the person asked for money so they could purchase a plane ticket to meet the victim, but then disappeared after the funds were sent.
Jensen explained that another sign of scammers is the way they ask for payment. It is almost always by bitcoin or gift cards, and never traditional payment methods like a check or credit card.
“Doesn’t matter if it’s electronic gift cards or gift cards over at Walmart, if they are asking for payment like that in those kinds of currencies, I can almost promise you with 100 percent surety that it is a scam. If people are looking for payment with those kinds of methods, hangup and then do your homework. Once again, call the company that says you owe them money and do your own investigation.”
Scammers prefer gift cards and bitcoins because they are able to be transferred electronically around the world. They also are impossible for law enforcement agencies to track and retrieve.
Jensen said fraudulent calls seem to be on the rise right now, partly due to the holiday season and the pandemic that has produced a lot of uncertainty in people’s lives. He reminded residents that they can always call law enforcement and let them assist in verifying the legitimacy of a call.
“We see these almost daily. We would much rather be a part of proactively helping you to be financially safe, then re-actively investigating fraud that we really have a difficult time in taking the case to an end where a person may get their money back.”
The Federal Communications Commission also warns consumers that scammers view the holiday season as a time to take advantage of people’s giving spirit. Crooks have also made bogus phone calls, claiming to a legitimate charity or will create fake charities to try to steal money or personal information.