Last weekend I received a frantic phone call from a Ukiah resident, worried that her electricity was going to be cut off immediately if she didn’t give her credit card information over the phone to pay her electric bill in the next half hour.
Although she was worried about having her electricity turned off, she didn’t feel right about giving payment information over the phone, especially when she remembered paying her bill on time, so she hung up on the caller.
The caller who wanted her credit card number already knew a few personal details about her, and he used that information to suggest he was a legitimate electric company representative. Then he asked additional questions, pretending to fill in missing data about her account.
Luckily, the Ukiah resident noticed that her telephone’s caller ID identified the call as coming from out of the area, and—even more importantly—she trusted her instincts when the caller said the only way to resolve the issue was to provide a credit card payment immediately. She was right when she felt like things didn’t add up: she was being scammed.
You need to know these callers are NOT from the official organizations they claim. They are after your money and they will threaten you with all kinds of consequences if you don’t give them what they want.
As we approach the holiday season, it is important to safeguard your property and your money. Be sure to lock your car and keep gifts stored out of sight while you’re shopping, and keep a close eye on your credit card and bank statements for fraud, identity theft, and suspicious activity.
Today, crooks are creating scams that are increasingly complex. They call or e-mail you at home or send scams in the mail. They know your name, address and other personal information, and they work hard to take advantage of your good will, to confuse you or scare you out of your money.
If someone is calling, e-mailing or mailing you like this, please be suspicious.
Last year during the holidays, USA Today provided a number of tips to help protect you during the holiday season. We have placed the link to the entire article on our website for you to refer to, but here are some of the highlights:
Expect major retailers to be hacked. To protect yourself, make sure you only use a credit card. (Using debit cards could allow immediate access to your personal funds if a computer system is hacked.)
When shopping online, remember scammers often create phony websites for gadgets and gifts. Investigate online retailers before you buy, and be suspicious of deals that appear to good to be true. Shop locally and you won’t have to worry!
The holiday season is a busy time for Federal Express and UPS, and unattended packages are especially attractive to thieves during the holidays. It’s best if you can arrange delivery for a time you’re home, or have packages delivered to a neighbor who’s home all day.
The holidays are also a time to think of those less fortunate, but be prepared for scammers who would take advantage of our generosity. Phony charities abound. Many of the charities have names that sound similar to those of legitimate charities, so it's important to check out a charity before you make a donation. Since you can never be sure who is contacting you when you get a request from a charity, if you are inclined to give, you should contact the charity directly (via their website or telephone number), so you know your donation is going to the correct place. A good place to go to discover whether a charity is legitimate is www.charitynavigator.org. An even better idea is to donate locally to our Food Bank or the Ukiah Valley Christmas Effort.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.
By: Chris Dewey - Chief of Police