WEST ORANGE, NJ -- The Township of West Orange is urging residents to be aware of the dangers of scams involving identity theft after several recent incidents were reported in the area.
There were four cases reported to police between June 28 and July 3 of fraudulent checks, forgery and credit card fraud in the township, according to West Orange police.
In one case, a Gregory Avenue woman who had not received checkbooks she ordered from TIAA Bank logged onto her online account and noticed a check for $1,000. According to the victim, the check number was in the series that would have been delivered by mail to her home, and bore her signature in writing that was not her own.
In another case, a Helen Avenue man mailed a PNC Bank check to PSE&G on June 27 at around 7 :30 p.m. in the USPS mailbox at 20 S. Valley Road. The check he mailed was dated June 24 for $270, and his PSE&G account number was handwritten on the check.
On June 29, the man received an Email alert from PNC Bank stating that his account was below the $100 minimum balance required, according to the police report. The man discovered that the $1,270 was debited from his account.
According to police, the man then contacted a PNC Bank representative and was told that the aforementioned check was written in the amount of $1,270 and was dated June 26. The man was presented a copy of the check which still had his PSE&G account number on it. He told police that PNC Bank did not provide him with a location where the check was cashed, police said.
A woman attending a movie at the AMC Theater in Essex Green Plaza reported that her wallet was stolen on the evening of July 2. The next day, she was contacted by Bank of America about suspicious activity in her account, according to police.
The victim stated that there were charges to several of her credit cards totaling $265.54 that she did not make herself--all of them after she discovered her wallet was missing.
"As mobile phones and home computers become increasingly part of our daily routines be aware not to overlook important safeguards," said Joseph Fagan, Public Information Officer for the Township of West Orange. "This is especially true in the safe surroundings of your home where the convenience of on-line shopping may contribute to a false sense of security."
According to Fagan, local police agencies around the country are constantly reporting both new and reoccurring fraudulent based computer crimes involving identity theft occurring in their communities. Most are easily prevented with a minimal amount of raised awareness, he added.
“These are usually crimes of opportunity that are not limited to any geographical boundaries which unsuspecting individuals can easily fall prey to," said John DeMars, detective lieutenant of the West Orange Police Criminal Investigations Unit. “Residents should make themselves aware of some basic known scams and constantly question anything that doesn’t seem to make sense to them.”
A recap of some categories of known scams and other detailed information can be found at www.fraud.org/scams.
Residents are urged to exercise caution, to utilize common sense and to be especially suspicious of companies or anyone else calling for updated credit card information over the phone "since most companies or agencies, such as the IRS, don’t use this practice," Fagan noted.
Some common scams fall into, but are not limited to, the following categories:
Credit, debt, and loans
Fraud against older adults
Phony prizes and sales
Scams of the heart
"Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is," Fagan said. "Tech scams sometimes innocently involve giving information to someone you believe is posing as a bonafide company representative but in reality can be an imposter. This often happens when you dial a wrong number so it’s best to double check company contact information with a reliable source before dialing.
"If something doesn’t seem right, don’t be afraid to question it or hang up. If it is a legitimate and important matter they will call back. Be aware of scammers who claim to be a friend or representative calling for a relative of yours who needs money or may be in jail."
Fagan advised residents not to feel embarrassed or ashamed if they believe they have been a target of any scam or have fallen victim to a scam.
All are urged to report it or any other suspicious activity to the West Orange Police department by either visiting headquarters at 60 Main St. during regular business hours or by calling (973) 325-4000 any time.