Union County News

Scotch Plains Family Loses Thousands to Phone Scammers

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Phone scammers often prey on the elderly, but anyone can be a victim of fraud. Credits: AARP.org
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Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley Credits: John Mooney
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SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — Scotch Plains police are reporting that a resident in the 1300 block of Martine Ave. was the victim of a phone scam involving thousands of dollars.

The victim received a phone call from a person claiming to be a family member requesting several thousand dollars for medical bills, police said, but after the victim spoke with family members the next day, the resident realized the call was fraudulent.

The case is currently under investigation.

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"We would like for people to know that very seldom are people requested to wire or send money for any issue. If they are uncertain about a situation or if they think something could be a scam, they should call the local police," Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley advised. "We are more than happy to respond and help them find the truth."

According to the The Federal Trade Commission, crooks use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. The FTC offers the following tips to help you stay a step ahead of phone scammers:

  • Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone people trust, like a family member, a charity, government official or a company with whom you do business. Don’t send money or give personal information in response to an unexpected request via text, phone, or email.  
  • Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
  • Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, consult an expert, or just tell a friend.
  • Do online searches. Type a company or product name into a search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
  • Don’t pay upfront. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, or mortgage assistance. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear. 
  • Consider how you pay. Credit cards have fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.
  • Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. It could lead to more calls.
  • Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.
  • Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.

Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox. If you spot a scam, report it. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.

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