Chief: Watch out for scams
Presentation outlines types, including distraction scams
HAMMONTON—Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel gave a presentation on the subject of scams and distraction thefts at the Hammonton Canoe Club on Jan. 31. Friel discussed different types of scams, ranging from physical to technological, and gave visual examples to help keep the presentation engaging and entertaining while helping them be mindful of what to expect.
Friel began the presentation by advising everyone to protect themselves from any sort of scam or theft. He touched on the subject of distraction burglary and gave examples of grocery shopping and door to door salesman checking on a gas leak. Friel gave a demonstration of a shopper being asked to show them a certain item as a distraction method for the burglar to take valuables from your shopping cart. He then talked about someone checking a gas leak in the house and with the person invited to check out the leak, they come back to say there was no leak and to go upstairs, leading to the door being unlocked and someone coming in to steal jewelry while being distracted by the “gas company worker.”
Friel also urged those to ask for identification or credentials and to always verify the phone numbers being given by the scammer and not to call it. He also informed anyone that if they are unsure if the credentials are real or not to call the police department and they can help verify. Town employees are not allowed to enter someone’s house unless invited, according to Friel.
“Call the police department if you’re unsure, we’d be happy to iron things out. I’d rather come out and have it be somebody that’s a contractor for South Jersey Gas than to come out later when you have several thousand dollars worth of things stolen from your house because that’s not cool, that’s not coming back very easily. Most of these people are very good at what they do, they’re sneaky and they get in and they get out, they’re not trying to hurt you, they just want to get in and get out without you noticing anything happening,” Friel said.
Friel urged those to be aware of their surroundings and not to unlock their car from a good distance as it can lead to possible car jackings. Valuables shouldn’t be visible inside the car as it can lead to someone breaking into the car and stealing valuables as well as forcing you to replace the damage done to the car.
Friel then discussed the types of scams that people should be weary of. A lot of the scams that were discussed were common ones that a lot of people are aware of and are a victim to. Scams that were discussed include phone and text messaging scams, with those scams including Amazon delivery orders. This can leave people confused and force them to click on the link to verify when it really opens the gateway for the scammer to access personal information, according to Friel. Another example is answering a phone call about an Amazon order from a specific location and when transferred to the representative, they will ask you for your passcode to access the order. Friel emphasized never giving someone your information over the phone and finding ways to thwart scam attempts such as calling your bank to verify a fraudulent charge.
Friel then talked about pet scams, with the example of someone looking for a puppy online and coming across one from Arizona. He demonstrated how someone will contact the owner of the puppy and while being given the price of the puppy, a shipping, vaccination and transportation fee is added when in reality, the dog never existed.
Friel then gave a physical example of roof shingles damage after a storm and how someone will pose as a contractor to ask for a deposit and fees to provide the supplies when in actuality, they posed as a roof contractor to scam someone out of a fake deposit. They will cover it up by writing a fake receipt on a cash transaction so that they won’t get taxed and will keep in contact with the person as they’re never to be heard from again. People shouldn’t pay for a service unless you call to solicit a business and to always call the local police department for verification.
“Don’t pay for anything unless you call to solicit their business, that you check to make sure they’re a reputable business. You can call the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if there’s been any complaints. Also, call your local police department and just say ‘hey, this person came up unsolicited and I don’t know if they are really a business, or not a business.’ We don’t mind following up on things to make sure because you know what, if that person fooled you, how many other people do you think they fooled? Many, a lot. So, you’re helping everyone else in your community and surrounding communities by bringing this to public attention, law enforcement and municipal services so that people know that there’s a problem,” Friel said.
Friel then touched on loan application scams, where lenders do not charge large fees to process a loan. Check washing is where someone will take a check from an outgoing mail, will copy the routing number from the check and replace the name from original payee and pay the check to the scammer. People should be mindful of leaving checks in outgoing mail as businesses have made the mistake before, according to Friel.
Scammers will replace a QR code with a sticker of a QR code on top of the original one. This will lead to someone scanning the QR code and being taken to a link that they didn’t expect to go. Friel urged those to not randomly click on links from websites, emails and QR codes.
Health insurance scams is something to be aware of as some will ask for date of birth and social security number (SSN) to verify, with the current laws with Medicare accounts no longer needing your SSN to verify. That information will be used to create credit against you and that people should get a free credit check, which will keep track of open accounts that you may not be aware of.
Friel then concluded the presentation with grandparent and romance scams. Those scams will play on emotions as grandparents will be asked for bail money and send the money through a money card if a grandchild is “in trouble.” Romance scams will display fake profiles and pretend to be someone else, also known as catfishing someone, to shower affection and tug heartstrings in order to steal money from someone. Romance scammers can be prosecuted but hard to do so due to the unknown location, according to Friel.