The Mayor's Column
Protecting Your IdentitySeptember 01, 2016
By Mayor Gerald W. Tamburro
Every day the home phone rings, and more and more often the calls are from odd numbers with folks on the other end asking for personal information. Unfortunately, more often than not, those calls are scams.
Monroe Township Police Department and I want to remind residents to be cautious when giving out personal information over the phone, through the mail or via the internet.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to avoiding these scams is “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” These scammers are predators and unfortunately they are preying more and more often on senior citizens.
The most common scam is done by e-mail or the mail, where a resident will receive notice that they won a contest, but need to send a percentage of the prize money to the organization running the contest to cover the taxes.
If you didn’t enter a contest, and receive notification that you won a contest, more than likely it’s a scam. Also, you never have to send money to claim a prize. Taxes are paid after the winnings are in your possession.
Another common e-mail scam is also known as the “Nigerian Scam,” where a lawyer in another country sends an e-mail stating that the resident’s long-lost relative passed away in another country and in order to claim their “inheritance,” the resident needs to send “the lawyer” a certain amount of money.
Again, you will never need to send money to receive a legitimate inheritance. The predators go through a lot of trouble to make these e-mails look official, but they aren’t. I want to reiterate that we want our residents to be aware of these types of scams and protect themselves.
In addition, a common scam has the predators using auto-dialers to send robotic calls to residents telling them they are in violation and owe the IRS money and direct the resident to call a specific number. The IRS will not make phone calls before sending official mailings if you are indeed in violation. Also, the IRS will never demand immediate payment, and will never ask for credit card or prepaid card information.
In another common scam, predators will call or e-mail residents and say they will be sent free items, but need to prove their identity by providing a credit card number. Take a minute and discuss any offer you are unsure of with someone you trust. A common tactic of these predators is to rush residents to make a decision. I would recommend reaching out to a trusted friend or family member even if you are just a little suspicious about an offer. Also, remember the simple rule of thumb, ‘if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
A scam known as the “Grandparent Scam,” also has predators contacting residents by phone or e-mail stating “your grandchild is in trouble and needs money immediately.” Often times the predator pretends to be the grandchild and more often calls late at night to prey on the “emergent need,” of the situation and will then say they need money immediately for things such as “bail,” “auto repair” or another fake emergency. They often know the names of your relatives and will sound like they legitimately need help.
Remember to contact another family member before giving any money to anyone. Nothing is so urgent that you do not have the time to make a quick phone call to a relative or family friend to verify the information you were given. Scammers try to use time and urgency as a tactic.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has compiled a list of ways residents can protect themselves, which can be read here - https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-ways-avoid-fraud. Visit their main site www.ftc.gov for more resources related to identity theft and scam alerts.
The US Postal Inspection Service website, www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov, is a great source for fraud, theft, scams via the mail and several alerts and prevention resources including great videos.
The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ic3.gov/default.aspx, is an excellent resource for common online/e-mail scams and also has a section where residents can file a complaint.
Also, visit the Township Police website, www.monroetwppolice.org, for the latest from your local law enforcement.
Unfortunately, these predators target senior citizens. I would like to commend Police Chief Michael J. Lloyd and all of our Township Police for keeping all of our residents safe from these types of scams. Residents with concerns about this or any police matter, can reach out to them by calling the Police non-emergency number (732) 521-0222.