Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels. Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you're not expecting it. Be alert to the fact the scams exist. When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether over the phone, by mail or email, in person, or on social media, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam.
Some tips to help avoid becoming a victim include:
- Get an agreement in writing.
- Ask for references or get a trusted neighbor/friend/family member’s recommendation.
- Never pay the full amount for the job until the job is completed.
- You may also want to check with the Better Business Bureau to see what types of complaints have been made about a company.
Phone Call Scam
Bloomington Police Department have had reports of a scam that goes something like this: you receive a call that tells you your loved one was in an accident, or has been kidnapped and held for ransom, and the person calling will only help them or let them go safely if you wire money to them. Usually the people calling will have enough information about your loved one that it may make you believe it is for real. Fortunately, your loved one most likely has not been kidnapped. Instead, you have become the target of a scam.
If this situation happens to you, remember to ask some basic questions of the caller such as where the accident/kidnapping happened or what car your family member was driving. Try and get the phone number that called you and stay calm. The suspect(s) in this scam often will use your confusion and stress to try to take advantage of you during the call.
The best way to handle this is to first attempt to get in contact with your loved one in question.
This will be the best way to prove that the people behind the call are just scamming you. If you cannot get in contact with them, call the Bloomington Department at 952-563-4900 to file a police report. At no point should you go to an ATM or wire any money. Once you do this, you can't get your money back.
Below are some tips on how to prevent being scammed and what to do if you receive a call similar to the ones listed above:
What to do if you receive a call
- Attempt to call your family member to verify if they are all right.
- Notify your local police immediately if you believe a crime has been committed.
- Record the telephone number the suspected kidnapper and/or suspected scammer is calling from.
- Ask specific questions if you are contacted by the person associated with the scam. If the scammer doesn’t know the answers to your questions, it may prompt the scammer to end the conversation.
- Do not accept any subsequent calls from the number associated with the scam.
- Save any text messages and/or photographs the suspected kidnapper and/scammer is calling from.
- Do not panic: think with a clear head. Provide the proper information to the Bloomington Police Department if you believe a crime was committed (for example: you sent out money to a scammer or you believe the family member was in fact kidnapped) so that we can conduct an investigation.
How to help prevent the scam
- When family members are going to work, school, and/or out for the day, know their activities. Take note of things such as who they will be with, where they are traveling to, and what their final destination will be.
- Check to see what privacy information is readily available to the public via the social media sites that you and your family are linked to. Be careful about providing your personal information via social media sites, and only provide your private information to those you know and/or wish to have your information.
- Constantly update and check your privacy settings on social media profile sites. It is often through social media being public that allows criminals to learn more about you and gain the information they try to use against you.
- Be aware of something called phone "spoofing," which is when a suspected scammer calls from his/her telephone but has “spoofed” or masked his/her real telephone number with another telephone number that appears as such on your telephone.
4 tips to avoid falling for a scam
This flyer has 4 simple tips to take to avoid falling for a scam.
How to recognize a scam at your home
Knowing what to be on the lookout for when it comes to scams is one of the best ways to protect yourself.
- If it sounds to good to be true, it usually is. A contractor offering a last minute offer or forcing you to make a quick decision often indicates a scam or offer that is not in your best interest. Have a trusted individual review the offer before taking any action.
- Unsolicited or unexpected contact - Be very leary of people showing up to your home. Verify identification and authenticity before letting anyone into your home.
- If a person demands cash on the spot, do not pay them. Do not make up front payments. Ask them to return at a later time and then pay via a check or credit card. Do not pay in gift cards.
- Do not retrieve money or open a safe with an unknown person in your home. It's likely they are canvasing your home to understand where you keep funds.
- Stay alert when contractors or solicitors show up to your home. Don't let an individual take you to the backyard or another area where an accomplice could easily gain access into your unsecured home.
- If you see an unknown person at your neighbors home, or you've been a victim of a scam, call 911 to report it.
Link to a printable flyer with this information.