City police warn area residents of phone scams

Posted: March 8, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — City law enforcement officials have received numerous reports about phone scams in recent weeks.

The scams, targeting homes with landline telephones, have been reported by a wide range of age groups, according to city police spokeswoman Lauren Cummings.

One offer involves a caller — supposedly in Miami — stating that he is from the “My Windows Support Technical Maintenance Department” and is calling about a problem with the person’s computer.

The caller asks the resident to log onto his or her computer so the caller can fix the problem, according to a news release from the Police Department.

“He has been known to say ‘Go to your Windows computer and I will show you what I’m talking about,’” the release states. “This is a scam in which they access your personal information off your computer or they claim they have gotten rid of viruses on your computer and then charge you for it.”

Another scam involves the caller telling people they have won a Publisher’s Clearing House prize of several million dollars. The caller tells the person not to tell anyone about the winnings and to go to a local store and purchase a “Green Dot MoneyPak Card” and load $500 onto it, according to the release.

“You’re then told to mail the card to a certain address and you will receive your winnings,” the release states. “When the card is mailed, no money is returned and the victim is out the amount that was loaded onto the card.”

One local resident said the caller knew personal information about her — including her address — which made her believe it was legitimate, the release added.

Cummings said on Friday that while some people have reported believing the caller, most have been cautious and declined to do his bidding.

“We’ve been really impressed with how people are not becoming victims,” she said. “[Most people] are telling us they’ve received these [scam calls] and said ‘We haven’t fallen for it, but we wanted to let you know.’”

Law enforcement officials listed some ways to avoid being victimized by a phone scam:

If you receive a call, and have caller ID, check it. If it is a number that you do not recognize or if the number is blocked, it is best not to pick up the phone. If the caller is someone who needs to get in touch with you, he or she can leave a message.

Phone scammers often instruct people not to tell anyone what they have “won” and tell them that it is a secret. They often make references to religion.

Be careful about giving your personal information to anyone on the phone.

You should not have to give money to receive money.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Residents should call city police if they believe they have received a scam call, Cummings said.

“Whenever you receive a call from someone you don’t know and they are telling you you’ve won money or are asking for personal information, it’s probably a scam.”

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com