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Flagstaff, AZ: Since January 1, 2014 Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and Flagstaff Police Department have responded to over 200 citizen reports involving fraudulent requests for money or personal information. Unfortunately there are likely many more of our citizens who may have been or will be the target of these types of scams. All too often, these are not legitimate phone calls and our citizens find themselves drawn into a criminal’s scam. Investigating these scams is very difficult because the criminals may be in a different country, use throw away phone numbers, re-routed internet addresses, and many other means to keep themselves from being tracked. While we will continue to investigate these reports, it is important for citizens to be aware of the tactics these criminals use and to take steps to protect you.
The schemes often involve being contacted by phone, text, or mail and on face value may seem legitimate. The caller often says they are representing a legitimate organization (such as Microsoft, Sheriff’s Office, Police Department, Court Officers, Federal Government, Grant Agencies, IRS, Sweepstakes, Loan Services, Credit Card Companies, Utility Companies, buyer from Craigslist, Fundraiser for Veterans or other groups, etc.). They use names, letterhead, envelopes, and websites that look and sound legitimate. They may even have some basic information about you such as your address or vehicle.
In addition to pretending to be from a legitimate agency, they also may use the name of a person who really works for that agency. We received reports of people pretending to be some variation of a rank (Officer, Lieutenant, Sergeant, etc.) with the last name of Willis, Hull, Harris, Rodriquez, Barnes, Blair, and Jackson. But these are only examples, and a scammer may come up with other titles and names. They often provide a call back number luring you into trusting them. These numbers may or may not work, and may even be the actual number of the agency. However, a phone call to the main number of the agency (one that you verified as the number of the agency) can help you determine if their story is legitimate.
Of the over 200 reports made to Flagstaff Police and Coconino County Sheriff’s, there are many variations of these fraudulent calls and mailings.
• Scammers have used high pressure techniques such as demanding that you purchase a pre-paid money card (GreenDot, Cashier Check, Money Pak, wire transfer, etc.) to avoid being arrested on a warrant for anything ranging from missing jury duty to failure to pay a citation. In the case of IRS scams, they may say you owe back taxes and need to pay immediately or be arrested. • Often they use scare tactics such as saying someone has hacked into your computer and they need access and payment to fix the issue. They may threaten to shut off your electricity or gas immediately if you don’t make a payment. • Some of the cases have involved the victim being contact by phone or mail informing them that they have won an award, sweepstakes or grant. The scammer asks for a payment or deposit security to cover legal or other fees. • Several of the reports were that the caller pretended to be a relative who is in jail in a foreign country and needs money. Still other reports are that the scammer actually sends a check or money order but then claims something went wrong and needs a refund. • Some scammers claimed to be a representative of a loan or mortgage company requiring a down payment or personal information. Sometimes they will even send you a check to deposit. Only after the victim later sends payments does he/she find out that the original check was fraudulent and they are now out of money. • Craigslist scams are also common. These include people fraudulently posting rental units and accepting money for the rent, someone submitting a fraudulent payment and later requesting partial of full reimbursement, and numerous other schemes.
Obviously criminals are limited only by their imagination on methods of separating you from your hard earned cash or personal information. Whether you are contacted by phone, text, email, or mail, these scammers are trying to get you to give up personal information (social security number, bank accounts, etc.) or make a payment. They will do almost anything to make themselves look legitimate.
The men and women of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and the Flagstaff Police Department would like to remind you of some tips on how you may be able to avoid becoming a victim to a greedy criminal.
• If you receive a suspicious phone call that you suspect is a scam, please contact the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office at (928) 774-4523 or the Flagstaff Police Department at (928) 774-1414.
• In the event a caller claims they represent a government agency or a company, you are advised to look independently for that agency’s / company's main phone number in a phone book or online and confirm the caller's story. - Don’t just ask if a person by that name works for that agency; ask to speak with that person and/or ask for confirmation about the information the caller claimed to be representing.
• Be aware that unscrupulous phone callers frequently use the following tactics: - A high-pressure sales approach, urging you to "act now" or the offer won't be available later. - Offer you something that sounds too good to be true, such as a "no-risk investment." - Ask for your credit card or checking account numbers or other personal financial information. - Tell you that you have won a "prize" that you have to pay taxes or shipping for in advance. - Ask you to send money right away, through a wire service or overnight delivery. Fraudulent callers will sometimes offer to pick up the money from your home.
• What you can do to avoid being scammed: - Don’t be afraid to hang up on a caller who uses high-pressure tactics or threats - Keep your financial information to yourself. Never give out credit card, checking or savings account information to anyone who calls you, as it is not difficult for someone with this data to draft money from your account. - Ask the caller to send you information about their product or services. Legitimate companies are often happy to mail you a pamphlet or brochure about what they sell. (With this being said, don’t hesitate to cross check information you receive in the mail as well) - Place your name on the national Do Not Call List. - Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• To deal with unwanted telemarketing calls at home or on your cell phone: - Place your name on the national Do Not Call List set up by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Registration is free and you can register either online at www.donotcall.gov or toll free from the number you wish to register at (888) 382-1222 TTY: (866) 290-4236.
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Media and Public Contact: Gerry Blair, Coconino County Sheriff's Office, 928-226-5089