Scams

Text Phishing Scheme 

The suspects in this scam are targeting disability applicants and beneficiaries by sending them text messages on their cellphone asking them to call. The text messages have read, “Disability Alert: Please call 253-xxx-xxxx regarding your recent disability benefits application.” The numbers to call have varied but the wording has been about the same. When the number is called a person claiming to be a Government official asks for personal identifying information. We have received reports of identity theft where victims have fallen for this scam.

Facts related to this scam:

  • Social Security never sends unsolicited text messages.
  • Once you give anyone your personal information, they can use it repeatedly or sell it for others to use.
  • More information on this scam is available on the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General website: http://oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-releases/nov3-advisory.

What you can do to combat this scam:

  • Never blindly respond to a text message by calling the number given. Do some research and find the actual number for the entity you are trying to call.
  • Call the agency the person is from directly to verify their identity. Social Security has a toll free number to call: 1-800-772-1213
  • Report the scam to the Social Security Fraud Hotline at http://oig.ssa.gov/report or by phone at 1-800-269-0271.
  • Report the scam to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department by calling 714-647-7000 or 949-770-6011.
  • If you have been the victim of Identity Theft then take these steps after you have filed a report with your local law enforcement agency:
    • Place a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies and provide them with the police report number.
    • Obtain a copy of your credit report and review it to make sure no accounts have been opened without your authorization. Dispute any accounts you did not authorize.
    • Check the inquiry section of your credit report and make sure you made them. Call the telephone number listed for the ones you do not recognize and ask them why they ran your credit.  

Online Employment Scam

The suspects in this scam either post an advertisement online offering employment or respond to your online solicitation. They almost always communicate with you via text message or email and involve several different variations. They will either send you a check that they want you to cash or they will ask for your account information to deposit money into your account. They will then ask you to send them money via prepaid credit cards or they will have you wire them money. It can take banks several days or more to determine that the checks or deposits are fraudulent and in the meantime you have given your money to the suspect. Your account will be charged for the full amount of the check or deposit plus fees.

Another variation of this scam is where the suspect sends you a check in the same manner as above then instructs to you buy merchandise or use a service acting as a “Secret Shopper”. In the end, you still end up sending money or merchandise to the suspect and you are at a loss once your bank determines the check or deposit is fraudulent.

Still another version of this scam deals more specifically with people who advertise online offering childcare. The premise is the suspect is moving to your area and needs someone to care for their wheelchair bound child. They send a large check for wages and costs related to the wheelchair. They want you to cash the check and then send the money to some third party (which is probably another alias of theirs) in order to either purchase the wheelchair or have it shipped. Once again, when the bank determines the check or deposit is fraudulent, your account will be charged for the full amount plus fees.

What you can do to combat this scam:

  • Never follow a link on an unknown email or website unless you know where it will lead you. If you allow your cursor or arrow to hover over a link then the true destination will appear in a text box.
  • Avoid speaking to people using only text or email. Ask to speak with them in person or over the telephone. Be suspicious of people who will not do this or give you excuses why they cannot.
  • If you suspect a check is fraudulent then take it to the issuing bank to verify it or at least telephone the bank. You can also try calling the business or person who is listed as the account holder on check.
  • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Information on how to do this is on their website: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0076-phone-scams
  • Report the scam to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department by calling 714-647-7000 or 949-770-6011

Tech Support Scam

The suspects in this scam call you and claim they are from Microsoft Tech support. They talk you into allowing them control of your computer to fix some kind of problem. In some cases they also charge a fee which requires you to give them your credit card number. They will then ask for as much personal information as you will give them because they claim they need it to process the transaction.

Facts related to this scam:

  • Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls.
  • Once you give them control of your computer they are free to obtain any information contained on it as well as place malicious software on it.
  • Most merchants only need your name, card number and billing address to process a credit transaction. Some may need the three digit security code from the back of the card.
  • Merchants do not need to know your birthdate, social security number, mother’s maiden name, etc. in order to process a credit transaction.

What you can do to combat this scam:

Telephone Taxes Due Scam

Someone calls or leaves a message on your answering machine stating you owe taxes. You answer the call or call the number back and the person threatens you with arrest, deportation, etc. if you do not pay the tax immediately. They then instruct you to obtain a prepaid credit card and give them the card number from the front of the card and the code from the back of the card. If you refuse most times another person will call you purporting to be from a local law enforcement agency threatening to arrest you if you do not pay. The caller ID number is most often “spoofed” so that it shows the number for the law enforcement agency.

Facts related to this scam

  • If you provide the numbers for the prepaid credit card then the person can access the funds anywhere in the world. 
  • The IRS always sends taxpayers written notification of any tax due via the US mail. 
  • The IRS will never ask for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
  • The Orange County Sheriff’s Department does not work in conjunction with the IRS for tax collection purposes.

What you can do if you get one of these telephone calls:

  • Don’t call them back or hang up if you are talking to them. 
  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue. 
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at www.FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Telephone Utilities Due Scam

This uses the same premise as the tax due scam but the person threatens to have your utility turned off. They demand that you obtain a prepaid credit card and provide them with the numbers.

Facts related to this scam:

  • If you provide the numbers for the prepaid credit card then the person can access the funds anywhere in the world.
  • Most utility companies allow for many forms of payments and never require just one. 
  • The Orange County Sheriff’s Department does not work in conjunction with Utility Companies for the collection of money.

What you can do if you get one of these telephone calls:

  • Don’t call them back or hang up if you are talking to them.
  • Contact your utility company immediately to verify.
    Southern California Edison 1-800-655-4555 or www.sce.com  
    San Diego Gas & Electric 1-800-411-7343 or www.sdge.com  
  • Call the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at 714-647-7000 or 949-770-6011 to verify whether or not an actual Sheriff’s employee is calling you and to file a report.

Item Listed for Sale Check Scam

There are many variations of this scam and many different advertisement modes have been targeted but most lately have been through craigslist. The basic premise is that you list something for sale and the person contacts you to make the purchase. They come up with a story that makes you believe they have a legitimate check coming to you for more than what you are asking. They instruct you to cash the check, take the money out for the purchase, keep money for your trouble and then ultimately send them some amount of money immediately by prepaid credit card or wire. It can take banks several days or more to determine a check is fraudulent and in the meantime you have given your money to the suspect. Your account will be charged for the full amount of the check plus check fees.

What you can do to combat this scam:

Warrant for your Arrest Scam

The suspects in this scam call you, identify themselves as law enforcement officers and then direct you to pay a bail or fine to prevent arrest. The reasons for the warrant vary and most recently have been because you supposedly did not report for jury duty. They most often “spoof” the caller ID number to show the number or name of a local law enforcement agency. As with the other scams the suspects instruct you to obtain a prepaid credit card and give them the card number from the front of the card and the code from the back of the card.

Facts related to this scam:

  • The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will never demand payment for a warrant over the telephone.
  • Payments related to warrants are handled through the Court that issued the warrant.
  • You will never be restricted to one form of payment.
  • If you provide the numbers for the prepaid credit card then the person can access the funds anywhere in the world.

What you can do to combat this scam:

  • Don’t call them back or hang up if you are talking to them
  • Call the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at 714-647-7000 or 949-770-6011 to determine if an OCSD employee is actually calling you and to file a report
  • Contact the Court Directly to inquire about bail or fine payment. The link http://www.occourts.org/locations contains court locations and contact information in Orange County.