Scott Allen, Chief of Police
153 Central St.
East Bridgewater, MA 02333
For Immediate Release
Saturday, July 13, 2019
Contact: Benjamin Paulin
East Bridgewater Police Issue Warning about Social Security Scams after Woman is Victimized
Police Remind Residents to Never Pay Debt Collector by Money Order, Pre-Paid Debit Card or Gift Card
EAST BRIDGEWATER — Chief Scott Allen is urgently reiterating law enforcement’s standing warning about telephone scams perpetuated by criminals seeking to con citizens out of their savings.
At approximately 3:40 p.m. on Thursday, July 11, East Bridgewater Police received a call from a CVS store associate reporting that an elderly woman was attempting to withdraw money from the store’s ATM.
The woman told the store associate that she received a call from the U.S. Social Security Administration telling her that she owed money and needed to purchase gift cards to make the payment. The store associate informed the individual that the Social Security Administration does not call people to demand money. However, the individual continued with her transaction, purchased the gift cards, provided the caller with their codes and lost the money, despite the clerk’s warnings.
The woman was from an area town, and after receiving the alert from CVS, East Bridgewater Police were able to contact her. They reminded the woman that no government agency or law enforcement official will EVER call a citizen to demand immediate payment on a debt via pre-paid debit card or gift card.
Pre-paid debit cards and gift cards are not a legitimate way to pay for goods and services. They cannot be traced, and once funds are transferred, the money cannot be recovered.
“Giving someone a wire transfer, pre-paid debit card or gift card is equivalent to handing someone an envelope full of cash,” Chief Allen said. “No government agency will ask for payment in this way. No matter how convincing or demanding the caller is, never give them your personal or financial information, and never send them untraceable money. When these people call you, hang up immediately and call the police.”
Common telephones scams that target residents – especially seniors – include:
- IRS Impostors: Callers contact you demanding immediate payment for back taxes.
- Arrested Relative: Scammers contact you claiming that a friend or relative has been arrested and needs bail money.
- Kidnapped Relative: Scammers call to report a friend or relative has been kidnapped and a ransom must be paid.
- Threatened Arrest: Scammers call to tell you that you are subject to arrest (by a variety of different agencies: U.S. Marshals, FBI, etc.) and must pay to avoid arrest.
- Utility Scam: Scammers pose as bill collectors from utility companies and threaten to shut off service if you do not pay.
- Sweepstakes: Someone calls to notify you that you have won a contest or sweepstakes and must send money to collect any winnings.
- Tech Support/Malware: Someone contacts you claiming your computer needs repairs and to send money for service or asks to connect to your computer. Additionally, a pop-up can appear on your computer, stating that it is infected with malware, and to call a number to pay to remove the virus.
In many of these calls, the scammer demands payment via electronic money order or pre-paid debit card. This should be an immediate red flag.
To help people protect themselves from similar scams, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers several tips on its website, including:
- Do not take calls from unknown numbers.
- Do not share personal, identifying information like Social Security numbers, account numbers, or mother’s maiden names.
- If a caller claims to represent an organization and you are doubtful, hang up and contact that agency to verify whether the call was truly from a representative.
- Caller ID is not always accurate. A call from a “local” number might not be coming from a local person or organization.
- Never pay a caller using a gift card or prepaid credit card.
- Be wary of callers who talk quickly and pressure you to make a decision quickly.
- Do not send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you pay for a product or service with cash or a money transfer, you run a risk of losing the right to dispute fraudulent charges.
- Report rude or abusive callers, even if you already sent them money, by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP or by visiting ftc.gov/complaint.
Chief Allen would also like to commend the East Bridgewater CVS store associate who recognized the call as a scam and attempted to prevent the individual from falling victim to the scammer. Convenience stores and pharmacies have been training their associates over the past few years on how to recognize these scams in progress.
The investigation into this incident is ongoing. However, the money the resident sent the scammer most likely cannot be recovered.
Anyone who has questions, concerns, or believes they are the victim of a scam is asked to contact the East Bridgewater Police Department at 508-378-7223.