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NJ officials warn: Beware ‘authorities’ who claim you owe them money

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

PUBLIC SAFETY: Beware con artists calling people claiming to collect a non-existent debt for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

“This is the latest in a long line of government impostor scams, in which criminals cold-call their victims while claiming to represent the IRS, the Attorney General’s Office, or some other agency,” Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.

“The goal is always to con the victim into sending money, or giving away personal information and opening themselves up to identity theft,” he said.

Many government impostors, particularly in the “IRS scam,” attempt to threaten victims into sending money. Others attempt to fool victims by offering money – such as a legal settlement or a grant that the victim must claim.

In either case, victims will be directed to send a payment – usually by a wire transfer service or pre-loaded debit card – and/or disclose their personal or financial information.

In this case, the scammer’s phone number appears on victims’ caller ID to have a 609 area code.

“Spoofing” technologies make it possible for scammers to disguise their phone numbers – and even make a phone call from overseas appear to be local.

“With the power of modern technology, it is easier than ever for scammers to mimic local phone numbers or to create emails, documents and websites that look like those of legitimate government entities or businesses,” New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. “But don’t be fooled. Instead, be vigilant and skeptical. Always verify what you are told, before giving anyone your money.”

The Division of Consumer Affairs has launched a “Fighting Fraud” awareness program to educate and empower New Jersey residents, help them recognize scams — both old and new — and prevent victimization.

Scammers often contact their victims by phone, email, text message, or letter, the DCA notes. Though the details of each scam may differ, the goal is always to profit illegally at the victim’s expense – either through outright theft or through identity theft.

Consumers should never send money, surrender their personal or financial information, or click on a link or attachment, without first taking the time to make sure the communication they received is valid.

Consumers are advised to independently verify the information in an email, phone call, or letter. Use another source to find a separate phone number for the person or entity that supposedly made the communication, in order to verify whether it was genuine.

Just as important: Do not act without thinking. This is true especially when dealing with a sales pitch or a threat that says “you must act right away.” And even more so if the consumer is told to “keep this confidential and don’t tell anyone about this deal.”

In this and other government impostor scams, con artists try to create a false sense of urgency. They will often demand secrecy, by demanding that the victim tell no one else about the payment.

These criminals know that know consumers are much more likely to become victims if their emotions are higher – and if they are prevented from discussing the scam with a friend or relative.

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If you have elderly relatives, talk to them about this.

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A sampling of phone scams:

Phone scammers pretend to offer lower credit rates to steal your info, Ridgewood police warn

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Along with the hostage scam and the IRS scam, police are now hearing from residents that con men callers are pretending to be from credit card companies offering better rates.

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IRS phone scammers take more than $10G from Emerson man before police can stop him

CVP EXCLUSIVE: An Emerson man conned into thinking he’d be arrested by the IRS sent more than $10,000 to phone scammers yesterday before police called by his worried family found him in Ridgewood.

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Don’t be a victim: Bergen sheriff warns of federal warrant phone scam

PUBLIC SAFETY: The latest phone scam targeting unsuspecting victims involves callers claiming to have warrants for their arrests, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino warned this morning.

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‘Hostage’ phone scam nearly costs Wyckoff man $900

PUBLIC SAFETY: The “hostage scam” nearly claimed a victim in Wyckoff who stopped a $900 transfer just in time to a thief who convinced him that his brother had been kidnapped.
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Leonia police chief warns about phone scammers claiming connections to fire department

PUBLIC SAFETY: Leonia police are warning citizens to be wary of scammers claiming a connection to the borough fire department while claiming to offer chimney cleaning services and smoke detectors.
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Leonia residents not fooled by CVS phone scam

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Leonia police are investigating a phone scam in which someone calls CVS customers claiming to be a technician and promising to make it easier to get medications — in return for personal information.
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Saudino: Inmate jury duty phone scammers had $300,000 bank accounts

UPDATE: A nationwide jury duty phone scam run by a Georgia corrections officer and prison inmate brought some thieves as much as $300,000 each — and possibly was assisted by higher ups in the system, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino said today.

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Ridgewood man, 75, loses $1,600 in lottery phone scam

PUBLIC SAFETY: A 75-year-old Ridgewood man was conned out of nearly $1,600 by a phone scammer who wanted $400 more, which convinced him to go to the police. The Bartell Place resident was told that he’d just won a $950,000 sweepstakes and that he needed to wire $1,585 through Western Union to cover processing costs associated with the prize.
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Beware the PSE&G MoneyPak phone scam

PUBLIC SAFETY: Police are warning citizens not to be scammed by callers who claim to represent PSE&G and threaten to turn off electric and gas service if they’re not paid. Callers working in the nationwide scam have convinced victims to purchase — and make payments with — Green Dot MoneyPak, police said. READ MORE….

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