MONTCLAIR, NJ – Over the last several months, the Montclair Police Department has experienced an increase in the number of complaints from residents who report that they are being subjected to fraud via telephone and internet correspondence. Scams of this nature have also been reported in communities across the state of New Jersey in recent months.
In a June Police Blotter, Lt. David O’Dowd reported, “06/20/2014 a 24 year old Montclair man was browsing the Instagram social media website when he observed a profile which was advertising that they could “Turn hundreds of dollars into thousands”. The victim contacted this profile and was instructed to go to a local CVS store and load a GreenDot debit card with money. Once this card has been loaded, he was instructed to scratch off the serial code covering and photograph it, along with the front of the card and text these pictures to them. He loaded $50 on a card and sent the pictures to the account user. Once the pictures were sent he was instructed to wait three to four hours and he would receive a text of a picture of a card with $100 on it. He was then contacted and informed that they need an additional $120 in order to make him even more profit.”
“The victim purchased an additional GreenDot card and followed the same procedure. The victim received no money and has not heard from the Instagram user since that transaction. Again, Law Enforcement authorities urge the public not to respond to such advertisements. If someone is asking you to send any type of money transfer, i.e.. Green Dot, you should know who it is and what it is for. If you are unsure, do not send it,” O’Dowd continued.
The Montclair Police Department has indicated that another incident occurred on July 31, where a separate resident reported that they were contacted via telephone from a person claiming to be a federal agent who was attempting to collect due taxes.
Lt. David O’Dowd reported, “This suspect advised the victim that they would be arrested within the hour if they did not pay these taxes. The victim was instructed to purchase $1,278 worth of MoneyPack prepaid debit cards from CVS, and then furnish this suspect with the redemption codes. The victim provided the suspect with this information and was then advised that they required an additional $4000 to ‘unblock their social security number’. At this point the victim became suspicious and contacted Police.”
On August 4, another resident reported to police that they were contacted via telephone from a person declaring to be a federal agent trying to collect due taxes. This suspect then told the victim that they would be arrested within two hours if they did not pay these aforesaid taxes.
Lt. David O’Dowd reported, “The victim was instructed to purchase $5,554.45 worth of GreenDot MoneyPack prepaid debit cards from Pathmark, and then furnish this suspect with the redemption codes. The victim purchased these cards and contacted the caller with these codes. The caller then requested that the victim purchase an additional $3000 in GreenDot MoneyPack prepaid debit cards from Pathmark. While attempting to make this second purchase, the Pathmark cashier became concerned that this customer was the victim of a scam and advised them to contact the police. “
As a result, the Montclair Police Department had issued the following warning to residents, “WARNING - This caller then received a phone call from 973-744-1234, the Montclair Police main number. The caller identified himself as a Montclair Police Officer. One of our Officers spoke with this suspect, who then hung up. These suspects have the technology to make it appear that a telephone call is coming from the Montclair Police phone number.”
Then, in a separate incident on August 4, Montclair Police received a call from a different resident stating that his roommate had just been contacted via telephone by an unknown male who stated that he had kidnapped her sister and was demanding a ransom.
Lt. David O’Dowd reported, “The victim was instructed to remain on the phone with the suspect and walk to the nearest ATM. While Officers located this victim’s sister and confirmed that she was in fact safe, other Officers were searching for the victim, who was on her way to an ATM. Officers soon located the victim at Pathmark and advised her that her sister was safe. The victim had already transferred $520 to the suspect via Western Union. Officers immediately contacted Western Union and were successful in canceling the transaction, returning the money to the victim. “
Although Montclair is seeing a spike in scammers as of recently, this has been going on for months and is also being reported in other communities across the state. These are only a few of the notable incidents that have been reported to the Montclair Police Department and other New Jersey law enforcement officials across the state of New Jersey within the past few months.
OFFICIAL WARNING FROM THE MONTCLAIR POLICE DEPARTMENT
The Montclair Police Department issued the following statement warning residents regarding scammers:
“Residents are again reminded that if contacted by someone claiming to represent a company/agency requesting payment, that resident should first contact that company/agency and verify the request. When calling, the resident should locate the internet/phonebook published telephone phone number (not utilize a callback number furnished by the person calling) and confirm that this party is in fact an employee/agent of that company. Any suspicious contacts should be reported to Montclair Police prior to any transactions being completed. Residents should be especially cautious when these callers request any type of Moneycard (Prepaid Debit Card) or MoneyGram, VanillaCard or GreenDot payments.”
If the email, phone call, prize or lottery notice has any of the aforementioned elements, be aware that it is probably a fraud. Residents should not give any personal information over the phone or internet unless you know it is a reputable source. Always be suspicious of callers who ask for personal banking information or individuals who urge you not to discuss with other family members.
If you suspect the individual is a fraud, here are some tips:
Scammers will often pose as officials asking for credit card or banking information, saying that they are calling on behalf of a jailed relative or friend in financial trouble.
"The scammers will talk quickly, with a sense of urgency. A kind human response is to react quickly without fully considering the facts," say New Jersey Law Enforcement officials. "This is what the scammers want. The faster they can get your money the faster they can disappear, often without a trace."
New Jersey Law Enforcement officials also point out that all ages can be targeted for a scam, but especially the elderly. Scammers prey on the victims with tales of possible imprisonment or serious injury to a loved one.
Anyone who suspects a scam should contact the Montclair Police Department immediately.
SIMPLE STEPS TO AVOID BEING SCAMMED
New Jersey Law Enforcement Officials have offered simple steps that people should take to avoid being scammed:
· Never give your credit card number or bank account number over the telephone unless you have initiated the call.
· Never give a telemarketer any personal information including your medical information, social security number, or driver's license number.
· Never agree to any offer until you see it in writing.
· If a caller states that they are calling on behalf of a family member, first take steps to reach out to that family member or others before committing resources. Take time to carefully consider what the person is saying, ask for the name of the caller and a telephone number. If they refuse or are elusive with answers it is likely a scam.
After contacting your local police department, victims may also file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs who has an office that might be able to help. Contact 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) 973-504-6200 Visit:www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov or Write: Division of Consumer Affairs, Consumer Service Center P.O.. Box 45025 Newark, N.J.. 07101