At this time of year, people can be particularly vulnerable when they’re told via a phone call that they are about to lose their “Social Security funds” or that their water/electricity will be cut off because of “lack of payment.”
These are flat-out scams, where criminals prey on good people, people who would never do anything evil, so they not understand why someone would want to take advantage of them.
Circling the News has highlighted a few scams that continue to be used on kind people:
Social Security Scam:
You may have received this call that is supposedly from the Department of the Social Security Administration:
“The reason of this call is to inform you that your Social Security number has been suspended for suspicion of illegal activity. If you do not contact us immediately, your account will be deactivated. For more information about this case file, press 1 or call immediately our department number 326—”
HANG UP! This is a scam. Social Security Administration employees will never threaten. In most cases Social Security will mail a letter if there is an issue. Also, don’t trust the number you see coming up on your caller ID. Criminals are able to spoof numbers to make it appear that calls are from a government agency.
Banks, DWP or Other City Departments
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is warning residents about a phone scam, where imposters tell customers they are past due on payments and if they don’t pay immediately, they will have their services shut off.
HANG UP! The LADWP won’t call customers for past due payments. Customers will typically receive any shutoff notices through the mail.
Once again do not believe the number that shows up on the ID, because scammers have figured out way to clone a number that makes it appear as if it is a DWP number.
According to the LADWP scam flyer:
LADWP employees will never ask for personal payment information over the telephone. They will never ask you to purchase pre-paid cash card from a convenience store to pay a utility bill.
If you receive a call asking for a cash card, credit card, person-to-person cash payment, or a request for any other personal information, hang up immediately and call the LAPD at 1-877-275-5273.
Imposters and burglars are posing as DWP service workers. DO NOT open your door to anyone claiming to be an LADWP worker. Call LADW (800-DIALDWP or 800-342-5397) to verify the worker’s employment and the purpose of the visit.)
Report suspicious activity immediately by calling 911.
Kidnapping/Money for Bail
There are variations on this scam, but generally they end with a desperate plea for money from scammers.
“I got your granddaughter here, and if you want her back home, you’ll do what I say,” the scammer said.
“Help me, Grandma!” another scammer shouts in the background.
“What’s our code word?” the grandma asks. When the scammer doesn’t reply, then the grandma knows it’s a scam.
Always check with your family before you send money for kidnapping, bail or any other hard-luck stories from a purported family member. Having a code word for family members is a good idea.
Do not send money to a person over the phone, even if they claim to be a family member.
Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission (877) 382-4357 or online ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crt&panel1-1. Or report to Palisades Senior Lead Officer Michael Moore (310) 444-0737. For Medicare fraud, call (855) 613-7080 or visit: cahealthadvocates.org.