Threatening/Blackmail Email Scams
(April 28, 2020)
UPDATE: The Oregon Attorney General is also receiving reports on this scam. The alert can be found here.
Over the last two days, we have received three separate complaints from neighbors about threatening/blackmail emails. In these emails, the scammers claim to have hacked into their computers and threaten to send out compromising video footage to their contact list unless they pay a fee. The scammer includes the email recipients’ passwords, which naturally alarms them.
This likely relates to a scam that has been around for a few years. The scammer obtains information from data breaches including passwords. The scammer refers to these passwords in the email to the intended victim. Because the password is legitimate, the email recipient may believe the scammer has actually hacked into their computer and may be inclined to pay the scammer.
Some preventative steps you can take:
- Don’t respond to these emails. Report them to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.
- Block the sender.
- Regularly change your passwords.
- Use two factor authentication.
- Create unique passwords for each account that uses a combination of:
- Words, numbers, symbols, and upper and lower case letters.
- Choose words and numbers that can’t be easily guessed.
- Don’t recycle passwords.
- Make sure to password protect WiFi and other devices.
Beware of COVID-19 Scams
(March 23, 2020)
Tigard Police want to alert our neighbors about possible coronavirus COVID-19 scams that might impact our community. Scammers prey on our emotions. The majority of us have heightened concerns right now about our health, community, money, and supplies, making us more vulnerable to COVID-19 scams.
Be vigilant of scams during this time including:
- Unsolicited calls (robocalls), emails, and texts threatening to cut off your health benefits, utilities, or accounts if you don’t verify your data or pay a fee. Don't pay anything, provide info, or click on links in response to unsolicited contacts. If you’re concerned about your account status, contact the company directly using the contact information available from a statement or the company’s website.
- A neighbor recently received a scam call where she was asked to confirm a renewal fee for Amazon prime; knowing that Amazon doesn’t call for renewals, she immediately hung up.
- Coronavirus-themed phishing emails that prompt you to disclose personal info or click a link, such as a map of virus cases in your area, that downloads malware on your computer. The best prevention is to not click on links in unsolicited emails or texts. Research information directly on reputable websites such as https://www.cdc.gov.
- Work-at-home schemes.
- Online offers to prevent, diagnose, or cure COVID-19.
- Emergency or grandparent scams where someone calls or emails claiming to be a relative needing immediate assistance because they’ve been hospitalized or jailed.
- Online sellers that you are not familiar with who claim they have out-of-stock products, such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, protective masks and gear. Some of these companies are not delivering the products ordered.
- Fake charities that spring up during times of crisis offering to help people in need.
Please remember a few red flags that indicate a scam such as:
- Pressure tactics, including threats, to get you to act now before you have time to think.
- Offers too good to be true.
- Payment methods required that are difficult to recover such as gift cards, prepaid debit cards, and wire transfers.
- Unsolicited calls, emails, and texts that you aren’t expecting that may include requests for personal information.
- Please keep in mind that you can’t always trust caller id because a scammer can "spoof" or disguise their identity.
If you are contacted by a scammer, please let your neighbors, friends and relatives know. Sharing your experiences can help prevent someone else from being scammed.
If you are a victim of a scam, report it to the police non-emergency number. In Washington County, you can call 503-629-0111.
For more scams related to COVID-19, please visit: https://cybercrimesupport.org/covid-19-scam-alerts/
Scammer Impersonating Tigard Officer
Scammer Impersonating a Tigard Officer
(August 28, 2019)
Over the last couple of days, Tigard Police have received several reports of a scammer(s) calling residents and businesses claiming to be a Tigard Police Officer. In a couple of these reported calls, the person identified himself as “Deputy Kyle Parker” and, in one case, attempted to obtain personal information from the call recipient. Fortunately, the recipient did not share any information.
In at least one case, the scammer provided a phone number for call back with a voicemail stating that he is a Tigard Police Officer and that people should call 9-1-1 for emergencies.
In many of these schemes involving law enforcement, fraudsters tells intended victims that they have outstanding citations or arrest warrants and must pay immediately to avoid being arrested. In some cases, scammers claim that victims missed jury duty and have warrants out for their arrest. Scammers goals are to pressure victims to act before they have time to think or do their research.
Some scam prevention tips to consider:
- Tigard Police will not demand payment from you for citations or warrants.
- Be wary of anyone calling you and asking for your personal information.
- If you are contacted unsolicited by someone identifying themselves to be a Tigard officer, you can call the non-emergency number at 503-629-0111 to verify.
- Be aware that you can’t always trust caller ID. Scammers often use caller ID spoofing, which allows them to falsify the number shown on caller ID.
- Many scammers are currently demanding payment by gift card or prepaid credit card. Be wary if that is the requested payment method.
- If a caller claims that you owe money and you are concerned that you do, hang up and contact the company directly to check it out.
- If you have been a victim of a scam in Tigard, please report the crime to the police non-emergency number at 503-629-0111.
- For information on the Oregon Attorney General's Office consumer hotline, please visit: https://www.doj.state.or.us/consumer-protection/
Work Cell Phone Scam
Work-Cell Phone Scam
We recently received two reports about a work/cell phone scam and wanted to get the word out. The scammer posted a vague Craigslist job ad offering to pay between $500.00 - $1,500.00 dollars a day. The victim called the local phone number associated with the ad, and spoke to a male who self-identified as "Chris". Over the phone, Chris didn't reveal many details and insisted on meeting at the mall to discuss the job.
The scammer claimed to be a third party cell-phone dealer. He instructed the victim to go to all the major wireless cellphone carriers, open up new accounts, and buy as many high-end cell phones as possible. He would then pay the victim cash in exchange for the phones. The scammer stated that he knew of a loophole that allowed a third-party dealer to act as an agent and cancel cell phone contracts under a 14-day rule. In essence, the scammer represented that the victim would receive the cash for the phones and would not be liable for the cell phone contracts.
Unfortunately, Chris convinced one of the victims to enter into approximately $20,000 worth of cell phone contracts. The victim is on the hook for those contracts and was paid far less for each phone than the price of each contract.
Please beware of red flags of scams such as too-good-to-be-true offers and the use of pressure tactics to get you to act before having time to think or do research. These are common tactics used to defraud victims. Please spread the word!
Reports of Fraudulent Accounts
Reports about Fraudulent Accounts
(March 13, 2019)
In March, a number of residents have reported to Tigard Police that fraudulent accounts have been opened in their names, including ones with cellular companies. Some victims discovered the fraud when they applied for a loan or debt collection agencies contacted them about unpaid balances.
Due to significant data breaches, a majority of consumers’ personal information has been compromised. It’s not enough to regularly check existing bank, loans, and credit card accounts. We need to ensure that criminals are not opening up new accounts in our name.
What you can do:
- Place a free freeze on each of your credit reports with the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Businesses are unable to access your credit history while your reports are frozen and are unlikely to lend or open an account. However…. if you want to take out a loan, you need to temporarily lift the freeze on all of your reports so the lender has access to your credit history. For more info on freezes, please visit the Federal Trade Commission website.
- If you don’t put a freeze on your reports, consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service, especially one that immediately notifies you if someone opens up an account using your information.
- Request a free credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus and review all of the outstanding accounts listed on the reports. There may be discrepancies between the reports, so please thoroughly review each one. For more information, please visit the FTC website.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, contact the police and visit https://www.identitytheft.gov for a recovery plan.
Social Security Scam: Your Number Won't be Suspended
Social Security Scam: Your Number Won't be Suspended
(February 26, 2019)
Over the last week, we have heard from a couple of residents who received scam phone calls from people claiming to be with the Social Security Administration (SSA). One neighbor answered the phone to hear a woman’s recorded voice stating that his social security number had been cancelled and he would not receive further benefits unless he talked to an agent. Fortunately, he hung up.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently warned that SSA scams are increasing. They received over 10 times as many complaints in 2018 as the prior year with 35,000 complainants and $10 million lost. Scammers impersonating SSA representatives may claim that your Social Security number has been suspended due to suspicious or criminal activity associated with your number. They may threaten to issue an arrest warrant if you do not immediately respond.
These scammers may ask you to reactivate your Social Security number, a ploy likely used for identify theft. In some cases, they state your bank account is about to be seized and require you to purchase prepaid credit or gift cards or make a payment by wire transfer.
According to the FTC:
- “Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended. You don’t have to verify your number to anyone who calls out of the blue. And your bank accounts are not about to be seized.
- SSA will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time.
- The real SSA number is 1-800-772-1213, but scammers are putting that number in the caller ID. If you’re worried about what the caller says, hang up and call 1-800-772-1213 to speak to the real SSA. Even if the wait time is long, confirm with the real SSA before responding to one of these calls.
- Never give any part of your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you. Or your bank account or credit card number.”
Please let people know about this scam. To hear a snippet of one of these calls as well as to learn more information about them, please visit the FTC’s webpage.
Emergency Scam: Bail money for Son-In-Law
Emergency Scam: Bail money for Son-In-Law
(January 17, 2019)
A scammer called a resident this week claiming to be his son-in-law and asking for money to bail him out of a jail in Seattle. When the resident questioned why the caller’s voice sounded unfamiliar, the scammer said he had been in a crash and spent the night in jail without medical attention for a busted nose. The caller asked the resident to keep the conversation confidential because it would upset his wife.
The victim reported also speaking to a “representative of legal aid" who was attempting to secure $3,000 for bail. Phone numbers for both callers showed a Washington area code on caller ID. The scammers wanted the resident to provide his cell phone number so they could send him a bar code to use to deposit funds into their account at an ATM.
Fortunately, the resident called his daughter to verify the son-in-law’s whereabouts before proceeding with the money transfer and discovered the calls were associated with a scam.
Emergency scams can take various forms whether they involve a jail, a hospital or mugging where a “relative” needs cash to return home. Some tips for avoiding emergency scams:
- Know the signs of a scam. For example, scammers effectively use pressure tactics to compel individuals to act before they have time to analyze info and do their research. They may ask you to wire funds or use prepaid cards to pay. Other signs: https://www.doj.state.or.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/six_signs.pdf
- Ask questions. If someone claims to be a relative, verify their identity by asking only questions known to that person.
- Check it out. Contact family members to confirm the person’s location.
- Do your research. For example, if the caller claims to be in a jail in this country, check the respective law enforcement agency’s jail booking website or call the agency directly.
- Be wary of caller ID. Don’t rely on caller ID to determine if a caller is legitimate. Many scammers “spoof” caller ID so that a fake number or organization appears on the recipient’s phone.
- Be skeptical of messages. Emergency scams can be transacted through hacked email and social media, so don’t assume that messages received from familiar accounts are necessarily legitimate.
- Maintain privacy. Emergency scammers may be able to glean information from social media accounts, so regularly update your privacy settings and restrict access. Additionally they often will use the information provided by the victim during a communication such as names and repeat it during the conversation to establish familiarity.
Utility Scammers Target Residents and Businesses
(November 20, 2018)
This week, a scammer claiming to be a PGE customer service rep called an auto repair shop and threatened to cut off their electricity if they didn’t pay a past due bill within 45 minutes.
The owner knew the account was up-to-date. He called the phone number provided on the voice message to dispute the claim that his account was 60 days overdue. The call taker, “Kathy”, stated that she could transfer him to the financial division to discuss the status of his bill, but the electricity would be cut off in 45 minutes unless payment was rendered. When she instructed him to pay by a Green Dot MoneyPak prepaid card and call back with the number, he realized it was a scam. He hung up and called PGE directly using the phone number printed on his utility bill.
This scheme has been around for a several years and targets residents and businesses alike. These scammers are effective at using pressure tactics to get people to act before they have time to do their research. A concerning development in this case is the similarity between the phone menu used in this scam and PGE’s menu.
Some tips for avoiding this scam:
- Be suspicious of callers who pressure you to act now and demand immediate payment for any reason.
- If you receive an unsolicited call, email or text stating you owe money, contact the company directly using information from your account statements, info from the company’s website or another reputable source.
- “Beware of money scams. PGE would never demand payment by a prepaid credit card to prevent disconnection of service,” warns PGE on its phone line. (Prepaid cards may include Green Dot MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload, prepaid Visa and Mastercards or gift cards such as ITunes).
- Don’t pay by wire transfer either. Scammers want you to pay using a method that can’t be easily stopped or recovered.
- Never give personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited call, email or text.
- Don’t rely on caller id to determine if a caller is legitimate. Many scammers “spoof” caller id so that a fake umber or organization appears on your phone.
- Inform loved ones and friends about these kinds of scams.