Fairfax County police are warning senior citizens of a phone scam in which callers claim to be utility workers, health insurance representatives or from the Social Security Administration.
According to police, dozens of seniors have been victimized by receiving calls from someone pretending to be from a utility company, delivery service or sweepstakes. Police say residents are told their service will be discontinued unless they pay by phone immediately. Frightened at the thought of no heat, power, or phone, police say victimized seniors are asked to provide their account numbers and payment information over the phone.
Additionally, police say many of the calls are made under the pretense that the information is required to send out important documents such as new health insurance or social security cards.
“Overall, we get about 4,000 of these types of reports annually,” said Fairfax County Police Detective Clinton Beach, of the county’s online financial crimes unit.
An online reporting system for victims of financial crimes including credit card, check and identity fraud was launched by Fairfax County Police in 2011.
Police say that in this most recent series of scams, calls arrive during the weekdays. Callers are both male and female; they may speak quickly or with an accent so that it may be difficult to understand what is said. Often, callers also know basic information about the victim, including name, age and address.
Police say some potential victims have challenged the callers and the callers became frustrated and hung up. Police remind residents, particularly older adults and their caregivers, never to provide personal or financial information over the phone and to verify the legitimacy of companies requesting funds using valid, official phone numbers.
Scammers purporting to be debt collection agents and bank representatives top the list of fraud complaints reported by Virginians in 2012, according to a report released last month by the Federal Trade Commission.
According to the FTC’s annual Consumer Sentinel Network fraud complaint report, nationwide there were a little more than 2 million identity theft, fraud and suspected scam complaints made in 2012; a nearly 10 percent increase from 2011.
The report, which breaks consumer complaints down by state, lists Virginians as having made 48,971 consumer fraud reports in 2012. The most common type of identity theft reported in the state was government documents and benefits fraud (34 percent), followed by credit card fraud (16 percent), phone or utilities fraud (14 percent) and bank fraud (7 percent).
Police say any Fairfax County residents who feel they may have been victimized should file a report on the Fairfax County Police Citizens Reporting System.
For more information on how to file a report, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police and click on “Financial Crimes Reporting.”