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Resident Alert For Scam Activity
By: Det. First Sergeant Floyd Johnson

As many of our residents may know, there has been a recent increase in scams and deceptive practices that are victimizing senior citizens within communities across the country. One such practice includes what is commonly referred to as the “Utility Imposter Scam” or “Contractor Scam.”

The process begins with several individuals, usually two or three, picking a residence usually occupied by senior citizens. The “front man” will approach the residence and knock on the door to speak with the resident and alert them to a “problem” with their utility service. Usually the “front man” refers to a problem with the water, electric or gas service, however, sometimes it’s a tree cutting service or roofing contractor offering to do work. The actor will present an urgent reason to test the utility or provide the service. Once inside the home, he will attempt to get the resident confined to an area of the residence, usually the kitchen or basement. Once the actor has the the resident’s attention, he gives a signal and his accomplice(s) enter the residence to commit the burglary. Many techniques are utilized, but the intent primarily is to distract and confine the resident to an area of the home so the accomplices will not be detected. When the theft is completed a “signal” is given and the accomplices leave the residence, usually undetected. The “front man” then leaves in a hurried fashion, and the victims left confused, their valuables never to be seen again. Many times this occurs and the resident doesn’t even know what has taken place until days later when they discover that items are missing.

Although there are many variations to this scam, the main objective is to distract the victim with some emergent concern so the actors can separate the victim(s) from their money and prized possessions. In response to this activity, I have provided several tips to assist you if you feel you are being scammed.

1) Keep emergency contact numbers of all utility companies in a handy location in case you need to verify a problem with a utility service provider;

2) Keep all doors to your home locked, especially the rear door;

3) Never let anyone that you are not familiar with into your home. If you are asked to accompany them to an area outside of the residence and you feel you must go, take your keys and lock the door as you exit;

4) If you are approached and the individual says they were recommended by a neighbor; ask them for the neighbor’s name and phone number and call them while the person waits outside;

5) If you are approached by an individual claiming to work for a utility company, ask them to provide a supervisor’s name and/or phone number and to wait outside while you check with the utility company;

6) Look at the individuals presenting themselves to you; are they dressed in the proper utility company uniform? Is there a properly marked utility company vehicle in the area? Remember, in this day of computer technology many IDs can be replicated; do not rely only on a photo ID;

7) If an individual offering to do work on your home approaches you and you are alone, ask them to come back when you can have a friend assist you or wait while you call someone over to assist you.

8) If the individual requests money up front for their service, tell them you will think about it and you will get back to them. This will give you a chance to check out the company through the Better Business Bureau consumer advocate group.

9) If any individual begins work on your home without your permission even, if they say its “free,” tell them to stop or you will call the police.

10) Without placing yourself in danger, take notice of any vehicles and tag numbers once the individual(s) leave;

11) Once the individual(s) have gone; immediately check all of your doors and windows and locate your valuables including your wallet, purse or money;

12) Report any and all suspicious activity to the Palmyra Police Department.

The above tips are provided as a basis for you to follow if you encounter this type of suspected activity or feel you’re being scammed. Remember, most reputable business contractors and utility service workers will not be offended if you check them out or ask them for information about their company. If you have any questions about this type of activity, the members of the Palmyra Police Department are always here to assist you with any question or issue that you may have.

The following tips were collected from the internet, and we can not vouch for the accuracy of the phone numbers:

The next time you order checks, have only your initials and last name put on them (instead of first name). If someone takes your checkbook they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name but your bank will know how you sign your checks.

When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the “For” or “Note” line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won’t have access to it.

Put your work phone # on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. Never have your SS# printed on your checks; you can add it if it is necessary. But if you have it printed, anyone can get it.

Photocopy the contents of your wallet. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Also carry a photocopy of your passport when traveling.

We’ve all heard horror stories about fraud that’s committed on us in stealing a name, address, Social Security number, credit cards, etc. Unfortunately I, an attorney, have firsthand knowledge because my wallet was stolen last month. Within a week, the thieve(s) ordered an expensive monthly cell phone package, applied for a VISA credit card, had a credit line approved to buy a Gateway computer, received a PIN number from DMV to change my driving record information online, and more. But here’s some critical information to limit the damage in case this happens to you or someone you know:

We have been told we should cancel our credit cards immediately. But the key is having the toll free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily.

File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But here’s what is perhaps most important: (I never even thought to do this).
Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. I had never heard of doing that until advised by a bank that called to tell me an application for credit was made over the Internet in my name. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

By the time I was advised to do this, almost two weeks after the theft, all the damage had been done.

There are records of all the credit checks initiated by the thieves’ purchases, none of which I knew about before placing the alert. Since then, no additional damage has been done, and the thieves threw my wallet away this weekend. (someone turned it in). It seems to have stopped them in their tracks.

The numbers are:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
Social Security Administration (fraud line): 1-800-269-0271