This week the Boston Police Department issued an alert to East Boston residents warning of fraudulent activity that is targeting the neighborhood.
According to police detectives assigned to District A-7 in Eastie there have been numerous reports of fraudulent criminal activity via the internet or over the phone over the past few months.
“These cases range from transactions regarding utility companies seeking delinquent payments to the purchase of animals,” said BPD in a statement this week. “In many incidents, individuals demanded that payment be made through the use of gift cards.”
Consumer Education Specialist for the Federal Trade Commission Jim Kreidler said every day, millions of people who have lost their jobs are making difficult choices about how to pay their bills and are sadly falling victim to scammers.
“As the Coronavirus continues to spread, scammers are taking advantage of people’s heightened economic anxiety,” said Kreidler. “Their latest ploy is posing as representatives from utility companies to dupe people out of their cash and personal information by convincing them their utilities will be shut off if they don’t pay.”
If you get a call from someone claiming to be your utility company, here are some things you can do.
“Thank the caller for the information,” said Kreidler. “Then firmly tell them you will contact the utility company directly using the number on your bill or on the company’s website.”
Even if the caller insists you have a past due bill or your services will be shut off, never give banking information over the phone unless you place the call to a number you know is legitimate.
“Utility companies don’t demand banking information by email or phone,” said Kreidler. “And they won’t force you to pay by phone as your only option. If the caller demands payment by gift card, cash reload card, wiring money or cryptocurrency, it is a scam. Legitimate companies don’t demand payment by gift cards, like iTunes or Amazon, cash reload cards, like MoneyPak, Vanilla, or Reloadit, or cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin. Tell your friends and loved ones about the scam so they can protect themselves. If you got this scam call, others in your community probably did too. We know when people hear about scams, they’re much more likely to avoid them.”
The BPD suggests if you believe you are the target of a fraudulent call, fraudulent internet transaction, or email solicitation, please note the phone number, web address, or email of origin and report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. Please call the FTC at 1(877) FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or TTY 1-866-653-4261 or visit their website at: www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.