Provo Police warn residents to be vigilant as reports of phone scams increase

PROVO, Utah - Officers with the Provo Police Department said they have seen an influx in people reporting phone scams recently.

Sgt. Brian Taylor said they see several people come in each week who are victims of serious scams. He said the difficult part for police is these scams are evolving.

These recent scams all ask people to pay money through Green Dot prepaid Visa cards or through iTunes gift cards.

One victim recently moved to the Provo area from a different country. Not knowing how the IRS works, he was persuaded to give the caller, who claimed to be a tax collector, $30,000 in iTunes gift cards. This incident happened March 30.

Another person was called and told her sister caused a car crash. The caller said the sister was in jail and they needed $1,600 to release her. None of this was true.

A third person received a call where someone claimed her husband was taken hostage by a violent gang. They said if she didn't pay his $1,000 ransom, the gang would hurt him. She called her husband and found he was safe at work. Police said she did not pay any money.

"Don't be a victim," Taylor said. "You've worked to hard to lose your money to someone on the telephone."

Provo police has the following tips to protect yourself from fraud on their Facebook page:

"These kinds of crimes are not new, but there are things you can do to protect yourself from online scams and fraudsters. When you receive a suspicious phone call do these things:

•Ask who is calling. If the caller won’t answer, or you are concerned the caller might not be legitimate, tell them you don’t do business on the phone. Hang up.

•If someone makes a ransom demand immediately hang up and call police.

•Legitimate businesses and government offices don’t pressure you to make a decision right now and they don’t demand that you stay on the phone while you do it. Hang up if you encounter those tactics.

•You didn’t win a free prize. If someone is asking you for your account information so they can verify who you are to process your free prize, you are about to get scammed. Hang up.

•Keep your credit card, checking account, and Social Security numbers to yourself. Don't give that information to callers you don't know, even if they ask you to “confirm” this information. If you didn’t originate the call to a business you trust, then don’t give any personal financial information out. Hang up.

•Verify that the charity you are about to give your money to is legitimate. There are several online resources that rate charities. If you can’t find your caller on a list of worthwhile verified groups, find a better recipient for your charity.

•Only donate to charitable enterprises that offer rigorous transparency for how donations are spent.

•Don’t send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer, i-tunes gift card, or gift cards of any kind, etc. If you use cash or money transfer services rather than a credit card you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges. Your money will be gone.

•Don’t take a job that offers large sums of money for very little work and requires you to process business payments through your personal accounts. You are being set up to have your accounts drained.

Once you have given away your money to a scammer the odds of getting back are very small. Be smart. Don’t do business on the phone with strangers. Do call the police if we can help you. Much of this advice comes straight from the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Protection Bureau. For more information about how to protect yourself [click here]."