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Police Warn of 'Grandparent' and 'IRS' Phone Scams

Be aware of these scams that have been perpetrated in the area.

Phone Scam warning - Patch file photo
Phone Scam warning - Patch file photo

The Burlington Police Department is warning residents of two phone scams that have been reported in the area. 

The perpetrators use internet and social media websites to research for potential targets, a release from the department states. 

The first is known as the “Grandparent Scam,” in which fraudsters are impersonating as a grandchild in distress and begging for cash, the release states. Typically a grandparent receives a phone call or an e-mail from a “grandchild.” If it is a phone call, it’s usually late at night or early in the morning when most people are not thinking clearly. 

Usually the person claims to be in a foreign country and has been arrested, involved in an accident or mugged and needs money as soon as possible. The caller does not want his parents notified. Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting officer, a lawyer, or a doctor from a hospital, police say. The anxious grandparent is then instructed to send money via Western Union or Money Gram. Once the transfer is made, the grandparent often receives another call requesting more money. Wiring money is like sending cash, once the money is gone, you can’t trace it or get it back. Financial losses in these cases can be substantial and usually cost the victim several thousand dollars.

"If you receive a call where someone is contacting you for money, you should resist the pressure to act quickly and try to contact the grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate," police say. "Never wire money based on a request over the phone or in an e-mail.

The second scam is known as the “IRS Scam,” in which a person, including recent immigrants, receives a call from a person claiming to be from the IRS, the release states. The caller tells the victim they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license. The caller may know the last four digits of the victim’s social security number and make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling. Often, a second call is made claiming to be the police, and caller ID again supports their claim.  

If the caller claims to be a Burlington Police Officer, ask for their last name and call 781-272-1212 to verify the authenticity of the call, police say. 

The IRS usually contacts people by mail-not by phone-about unpaid taxes and the IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The agency won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.

"If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS, hang up and call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040," the release states. "IRS workers can help you with payment questions. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, texting or any social media."

The Burlington Police recommend that you never give a caller personal information, including your bank account, credit card, social security or driver’s license number. Western Union transfer forms specifically warn senders not to send money for an unconfirmed emergency related to a grandchild or other family member. Money Gram also has a fraud warning on transfer forms and says it can put holds on transfers that raise red flags. Additionally, limit your personal information, such as vacation plans, on shared and social media sites.

If you believe you may be a potential victim or have been victimized, call the Burlington Police at 781-272-1212. To report an online crime visit: www.IC3.gov.

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