Increased reports of scammers posing as police

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Multiple police agencies throughout Virginia are issuing warnings about scammers calling from a number that appears to be theirs in order to convince people to give up sums of money.

WHAT ARE THE SCAMS HAPPENING?

Demanding a Loan Payment

The Winchester Police Department says a person got a call from a number that appeared to be their department's, in which the caller demanded payment on a loan and threatened to arrest her if she didn't provide it immediately.

They say someone got a call from the telephone number (540) 662-4131, which is the non-emergency dispatch number for the Winchester Police Department.

In that call, the caller identified himself as Officer Garcia, Badge #556 and told the victim that she was late on a loan payment and needed to pay $250 by 5:00 p.m. or he would get a warrant for her arrest. The caller even had her call another number, where she talked to a woman claiming to be the attorney handling her case, who reiterated that she needed to make a payment by 5 p.m. She was then advised on how to make a wire transfer to handle the payment.

At that point, the woman became suspicious and called the Winchester Emergency Communications Center to report a scam.

IRS Impersonation

Virginia State Police received several calls within 24 hours from Virginians reporting that callers are using a phone number linked to a Virginia State Police Area 43 Office in Chatham – (434) 432-7287 – to use tax season as a way to try and con people out of money, an incredibly common scam this time of year.

The caller tells victims they owe money to the IRS and need to pay it promptly, either through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. They often threaten victims with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license, and, when questioned, have a tendency to become hostile and insulting.

Another technique is telling victims they have a refund due to them, but they need to share private information in order to get it.

HOW IS THE POLICE DEPARTMENT NUMBER'S SHOWING UP ON THESE CALLS?

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.

Some con artists have also used video relay services (VRS) to try to scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Don't trust calls just because they are made through VRS, as interpreters don’t screen calls for validity.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I GET ONE OF THESE CALLS?

The Winchester Police Department advises people to immediately hang up the phone if they receive similar calls. You should know that 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, except for law enforcement foundations, which solicit 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.

Also be aware that the Internal Revenue Service will never:

• Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
• Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
• Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
• Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
According to the IRS Website, the aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

If you get an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), you can report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov. Learn more by going to the Report Phishing and Online Scams page.