APD warns public about local scams

The Amarillo Police Department has received several phone calls from concerned citizens about being contacted by possible scammers.

Scammers can spoof any phone number and claim to be anyone they want. Spoofing has become a popular way for scammers to contact people. Spoofing is described as altering the phone number that shows up on a caller ID in order to masquerade as someone else. They can make it look like they are calling from any business or phone number that they choose.

Some of the most popular scams that we here about are IRS, Xcel Energy, Microsoft, Craigslist, the grandparent scam and law enforcement officers claiming that you have a warrant or that a family member has been arrested and needs to be bailed out of jail.

The Amarillo Police Department will not call to enforce any outstanding IRS taxes. The IRS will never call and demand immediate payment on owed taxes and will always send a letter in the mail before contacting anyone. If you feel like you might owe taxes, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. You can report any attempted scams to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ic3.org.

Xcel Energy will send out a notice through the U.S. mail before your power is shut off. Xcel offers many options for payment. You should be suspicious if the caller is requiring you to use a prepaid debit card or Green Dot card. To check the status of your business account or to report a scam you can contact Xcel Energy’s Business Solutions Center at 1-800-481-4700.

There have been cases in the past in which the victim was contacted by a scammer claiming to be with Microsoft. These scammers will contact you by phone or email. They try to trick you in to installing malicious software that can capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They will try to convince you to download software to allow them to take control of your computer remotely. They will request credit card information and bill you for phony services. Do not call any phone number that comes up in an error message on your computer. Microsoft’s error and warning messages never include a phone number. Microsoft will never proactively contact you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication with Microsoft must be initiated by you.

We have seen with Craigslist that a buyer will contact you and want to purchase your item. They will send you a check, money order, or a cashier’s check for more than the agreed upon price and ask you to cash the check and wire or send back the difference. The payment method that was sent is counterfeit, but will often be cashed by your bank and discovered as a fraud later. It is always preferred that you deal locally with anyone when purchasing or selling online.

The grandparent scam is very common. The typical grandparent scam begins with a male or female saying “grandma or “grandpa” and the victim saying is this (fill in the name of your grandchild)? The person says yes this is (your grandchild’s name) and (I am in trouble, there’s been an accident, I am in jail, I am stuck in a foreign country) and I need your help. They ask you not to tell anyone else and sometimes even put a “police officer” on the phone to talk to you and give you directions on how to pay a bail. They ask you to go to a certain place and buy gift cards or wire money to pay for whatever type of help is needed. They make this seem very urgent and make the victim feel flustered to get them to act on this before checking into the story. In 2017 the FTC reported that $328 million was lost to this scam alone.

A law enforcement agency will not contact you and demand payment over the phone in order to pay a warrant or to bond someone out of jail. None of the law enforcement agencies in Amarillo, Potter County, or Randall County will have a bond company call you or recommend a company for you to use. They will also not contact you and tell you to pay a fine for not appearing for jury duty.  If you feel like you might have a warrant and want to check you can call either Potter County or Randall County or check for local municipal warrants here. 

Be extremely cautious of anyone asking you to put cash on iTunes cards or any other type of gift cards to pay back taxes, settle debts, pay a bill, obtain loans or grants or pay for merchandise. In almost every case, the caller turns out to be a thief, and the consumer loses their money.  Never wire money, provide your debit/credit card or give any personal information to an unverified source.

If you have not had a monetary loss due to a scam there is no reason to contact a law enforcement agency. If you have been the victim of a scam you can call the police department or go to the Amarillo Police Department webpage to report it. Please keep this information on hand so that you can pass it on to friends and family members who might not have received it.

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