Innovative and intricate scams are cropping up around town, and police want citizens to know about them. Although few victims have come forward, police have received warnings from citizens who have been targeted by the schemes.
Below is a listing of common swindles recently reported to Officer Hans Van Noord of the Lodi Police Department.
One grift from Mexico is specifically aimed at the elderly. The target will receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a relative visiting Mexico who was arrested by the federales, Van Noord said.
“The person will use the first name of a relative and say that they are with their friends in Mexico,” he said. “They’ll say their friends had guns and drugs in the car when they were all pulled over and they are being held in custody, and they need bail to get out.”
The name given is commonly the first name of a relative of the target, Van Noord said. How they are obtaining the information is unknown.
“They could be using social media sites like Facebook,” he said.
A second scam preys on a person’s desire for free gas and the likelihood they won’t closely look at their monthly credit card statement.
A person will receive a letter in the mail saying they have won $100 in gas at a local station. It claims they can redeem the award by calling 866-556-9682. They are then asked for their credit card number to receive the award code, police said.
If the card number is obtained, the person will be charged a dollar every month. While the scam doesn’t clean out an account, Van Noord said people are less likely to report such a crime.
“One guy told me he figured it was just a monthly service charge,” he said. “It’s a slow bleed, and the scammers can make a lot of money by duping a lot of people.”
Another scam revolves around a phone call from someone claiming to be from the “Prize Patrol,” police said. The caller claims a delivery truck is in the target’s neighborhood and wants to drop off their winnings.
In order to get the delivery truck to reach its destination, the intended victim is instructed to visit a nearby convenience store and purchase a pre-paid credit card. They are then asked to read the numbers off the gift card to the operator.
“This one is really in-depth because they are using points near the victim’s address to make it believable,” Van Noord said. “They’ll say the truck is on Highway 99 and they need you to go to the Walgreens on Ham Lane to buy the gift card.”
Van Noord was with an intended victim last week and said the phone operator sounded like they were in a call center. The scam appears to be coming from India, police said.
The final hustle police are warning about also comes over the phone. An audio recording informs the caller that their credit card has been compromised, and requests their number. Once the caller punches in the 16-digit card and three-digit security code, the recording says the issue is resolved and the call is terminated.
Charges will then appear on the victim’s credit card, police said.
The scam is dangerous because people can think automated messages are more legitimate, Van Noord said.
He warned that victims can lose money without reimbursement if they fall for certain scams.
“If you get scammed on your credit card, you may be able to contest it and get the funds back,” Van Noord said. “But if you get scammed on your debit card, that money’s basically gone.”
Identity thieves will also call people at random and pretend to be from credit bureaus, he said.
Police are requesting citizens stay vigilant to protect their personal information and not to give away credit card numbers over the telephone.
Because many of these schemes are international, arrests can be difficult to come by, Van Noord said. Citizens can best protect themselves by avoiding situations that appear too good to be true, he said.
If you have been scammed or have been contacted by potential identity thieves, call the Lodi Police Department at 333-6770.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.