By Dawn M. Aerts
Iron County Today
While there is no way of telling just how many people have been touched by phone scams, Lt. Del Schlosser of the Iron County Sheriff’s office and most experts agree that it is better to ignore calls than to provide any personal information.
“We have seen everything from IRS payment and credit card scams, to callers who may target you for missed jury duty, or insisting that you’ve won a lottery,” said Schlosser, who has worked with fraud-issues since joining the department in 1997. “These people may threaten you with an outstanding debt, an impending arrest, or may ask you for money to cover a debt, or charge for a family member who is part of an LDS mission.”
According to Schlosser, scam calls are a daily and hard-to-trace trend in Utah and across the country.
“What you need to know is that no one from law enforcement, the IRS or other agencies are going to be collecting payments or threatening you for debts over the phone. Public contact will always come through the mail (or in person).”
Schlosser, who oversees everything from patrol and field investigation to court services and search and rescue duties, is most concerned when residents, the elderly and families in general are caught up into scams that he says operate from multiple temporary numbers and from servers scattered around the world.
“There are ways to ‘ping’ these people, but by the time you make a report, or get to that point, they’ve already moved on with a different method or ‘throw away phone’ number.”
In October, and again through the IRS tax season, Schlosser and law enforcement see an uptick in calls threatening to prosecute for tax-related debt.
“Technology has changed the way they come into your home,” said Schlosser. “You could be called from a local number or from an out-of-state location. They will try to draw you into providing them with some of your personal data – anything from a date of birth to an actual credit card number.”
Law enforcement is specifically concerned about elderly residents, young people and those who fall prey to scams without realizing the consequence of speaking with them.
“You absolutely don’t want to take their call, and never give out any personal information – social security number, date of birth or any account-based information.”
Corporal Dan Raddatz has seen fraudulent scams on computer-support.
“Basically, you might see computer ‘pop-ups’ that indicate issues with your computer and urging you to call a Microsoft Technical support number,” said Raddatz. “If you call, they might ask for gift card payment to correct what they claim is a compromised computer – so the suspects play on fear of losing your financial, photos or other stored data.”
You can do a Google search of the suspicious number to find other scamming complaints. According to Schlosser, there are red flags.
“First, you would not get a call about taxes without a mailed notice, and there shouldn’t be any demand for a payment without giving you an opportunity to question or appeal the IRS claim.”
That said, residents should never provide payment that involves debit cards, money or a bank transfer. While it is helpful to notify the specific agency (about the call), Schlosser says that many of scams can never be fully traced or prevented.
“If you hear something like…’This is to inform you that we have received a collection notice in your name regarding tax evasion,’ or that ‘You have not complied with this agency or that debt collector’ – the red flag goes up.”
According to Schlosser, many of the scammers have done their research and have a strategy that has worked.
“Utah is a place with a lot of conscientious people, so they will listen and sometimes react to the scam and then, fall into that information trap,” said Schlosser. “If someone calls with some great news for you — like you’ve just won a huge lottery, don’t call them back.”
Those who feel they might be a victim of a telephone scam can contact the Iron County Tip Line, 435-867-5878.
Caption: Lt. Del Schlosser, Iron County Sheriff’s office, works with officials and agencies from across the country to curb local scam phone calls or email requests that prey on people of all ages.