The Winchester Police Department is warning residents to be on the lookout for scammers who could be posing as police officers in an effort to steal their money. Officers investigated a case on March 24, 2017, involving a Winchester resident who received a fraudulent phone call. The call came from the telephone number (540) 662-4131, which is the non-emergency dispatch number for the Winchester Police Department.
The phone call proceeded as follows:
The caller identified himself as Officer Garcia, Badge #556. The caller told the female victim that she was late on a loan payment and needed to pay $250 by 5:00 p.m. or he would be obtaining a warrant for her arrest. The man directed the resident to call the attorney handling her case and provide immediate payment. The victim called the number he provided (786-342-0016) and spoke with a female who had a heavy accent. The female reiterated that she had until 5:00 p.m. to make a payment and was advised on how to make a wire transfer. That is when the resident became suspicious and called the Winchester Emergency Communications Center to report the scam to police.
How is it possible for the Police Department’s number to show up on caller ID?
Scammers can use websites to alter numbers on the caller ID through a method called “spoofing.” Falsifying phone numbers with malicious intent is against the law. Most “spoofers” represent themselves as banks, creditors, insurance companies or government agencies.
What should you do if you receive a similar call?
The Winchester Police Department advises residents to immediately hang up the phone if they receive similar calls. Officers will never make phone calls to tell residents they owe money, and they will never accept money directly. Police will also never solicit donations for fundraisers via telephone. NOTE: The only exception is the Frederick County/Winchester Law Enforcement Foundation, which solicits donations from local businesses through mail.
The Winchester Police Department offers the below tips to help avoid falling victim to a telephone scam:
- Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payments.
- Never give out personal or financial information to unsolicited callers, including: account numbers, social security numbers, passwords or other identifying information.
- Never wire money, provide debt or credit card numbers or Green Dot MoneyPak card numbers to someone you do not know.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement or agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request.
- Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t know. With spoofing becoming more common, question the number on the caller ID. Be cautious and verify the person on the other end of the phone.
- Don’t be afraid to tell the caller you need time to think about your decision. Talk with a trusted friend, family member, or call the Winchester Police Department’s non-emergency number at (540) 662-4131.