The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 20, 2013

Cheats add bullying to schemes

‘Foreign’-sounding caller says he is waiting nearby

By Joanne Arbogast
The Daily Item

WATSONTOWN — The Watsontown Police Department says a telephone scam is ongoing in the Valley, and that the callers are threatening those who answer the phone.

“Scams are becoming more and more frequent, especially targeting the elderly,” warn police, and one scam in particular has resulted in multiple calls to Watsontown police from “very concerned and scared citizens.”

The report states “a person, often with a foreign accent, calls a resident telling them they won things such as a car, and a large amount of money (such as half a million dollars, etc). The caller instructs the person to go buy pre-paid cards, sometimes called GreenDot cards, and tells the person that they will be at their house at a specified time.

“If the person receiving the call refuses this request, the caller becomes more irate and tells the victim they are going to come there or they are waiting down the road for them. They will even try to give specific information to try and convince the victim they are really there or knows where the victim lives.

“In at least one instance, the caller even called a store in Watsontown and tried to intimidate the employees there into believing they were coming to the store to collect these pre-paid cards.  

“In all cases,” according to the police report, “no such person has ever been known to show up at a residence or store or make good on any threats or intimidation. These callers are usually from out of the state or even out of the country and are simply trying to get money and goods from willing victims.”

Watsontown police strongly advise you to not give any information to people who call with these types of demand and to hang up — do not let them intimidate or threaten you.

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Patricia, 70, of Sunbury, thought the automated phone message was from her bank and, when she was asked to confirm her name by pressing 1, she did. When she was prompted to enter the last four digits of her Visa bank card, she hung up.

“I’ve been scammed before,” she said. The last time she received a similar call, she provided the requested credit card digits and then immediately called the bank to cancel the card.

Though this time she didn’t give out her bank account information, she still called her bank to ask whether it was trying to reach her. It was not.

If your bank needs to contact you — by any means — might it do it using an automated recording?

“No,” Kriss Berry, security officer for Swineford National Bank, Hummels Wharf, said firmly. “No bank will.”

Typically, if the bank needs to reach you, it will be from a person who works in your local bank branch.

In addition, that person will not be asking you for your bank card information, Berry said, “because we already have it.”

While Patricia thought the robo call she received was from her local bank, it’s possible she may have been mistaken. The scam messages, which could have originated halfway around the world, are sophisticated and worded in such a way that people receiving the calls can easily make the assumption that the bank is local.

“Today’s technology allows these people to reach out to people everywhere,” Berry said. “The calls can be routed from overseas, or they could be next door.”

The best advice, he added, is to trust your instincts.

“If you wouldn’t share your bank account information with a stranger on the street, don’t share it with a stranger who calls or emails you,” he said.

Meanwhile, a 48-year-old Turbotville woman knows what can happen when someone gains access to your bank account. On July 8, the victim reported to Milton state police that $1,630 of unauthorized purchases had been made on her bank card.