As phone scams become an increasingly common form of fraud, government agencies are educating the public about new scam tactics and how to protect themselves against them.
“The best advice is to ignore calls that aren’t from people in your address book and be skeptical of all unsolicited text messages,” Tanya Sierra, a spokesperson for the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, told The Epoch Times.
According to Sierra, phone and smishing scams — which are sent via text message — are notoriously difficult to stop or investigate because scammers can easily “spoof” or impersonate any number, even the official number of a police station or bank. These scammers are often located outside the United States, she said.
“We are constantly trying to educate our community about the dangers of scammers,” Lt. Amber Baggs, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, told The Epoch Times.
The department recently reported a common scam, in which scammers pretend to call currently-hiring deputies and residents and threaten them with lawsuits, jail time or arrest unless they pay a fine to fix the problem, Baggs said.
Another scam the department warns occurs when the caller, posing as a sheriff’s deputy, claims the person missed a court date and demands that they come to the county sheriff’s headquarters alone, without telling anyone , and at odd hours, Baggs said. They threaten that the situation will become a criminal if they don’t show up, she added.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department posted a press release on Sept. 20 saying it would never call anyone demanding money or threaten them with jail time, as outstanding warrants cannot be resolved over the phone.
Other common scams include phone calls, text messages and emails about problems with your computer asking for remote access, charity scams asking you to pay money to bogus organizations, another scam asking you to pay a fine paying to file an unemployment claim and stimulus check scams that ask for money or your personal information before you get a check, according to Baggs.
“It comes down to saying no if it doesn’t feel right to you,” reads the sheriff’s press release. “Trust your gut, especially if it sounds too good to be true.”
People who believe they have received a scam call or text message can report it to their local law enforcement agency or Better Business Bureau to help law enforcement identify and prevent such scams.
“After we investigate fraud cases and identify a suspect, we present the case to the District Attorney’s Office for Criminal Reporting and work with them to secure a successful prosecution,” Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Deirdre Vickers told The Epoch Times in an email.
Amy McKenzie, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, told The Epoch Times that scammers use untraceable phones and fake identities, and the stolen money is typically transferred abroad, making it more difficult, if not impossible, to recover it. to get.
“Scammers are constantly renewing the nature of the scams, making them difficult to spot consistently,” said McKenzie. “As detection has improved, the methods used by scammers have also improved.”
An example of a more convincing scam is when a victim receives an email from a bank or company describing that money has been accidentally deposited into their bank accounts, followed by a phone call – supposedly from that bank or company – to verify credibility to give. to the scam.
According to McKenzie, the most common scams are gift cards, fake IRS collections, warrants for jury duty, fake utility or financial bills, and scams involving online romance.
“People should never give money to a stranger,” McKenzie said. “Moreover, no legitimate government agency or company will ask for your bank details, social security card number or anything like that.”
McKenzie also said older victims are more likely to fall victim to scams. Anyone who suspects that a person over the age of 60 is a victim must report this to the Adult Protection Service.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 2.8 billion cases of fraud were reported and $5.8 billion lost in 2021 alone — an increase of more than 70 percent from the previous year.
In California, the number of scams rose from 243,600 cases in 2019 and 318,698 cases in 2020 — a 23.5 percent increase — according to the most recent data from the agency for the state.
Individuals can learn about scam tactics updates and tips to avoid becoming a victim through their local law enforcement agencies’ social media platforms, public meetings, and press releases.