International Telephone Scammers Target Athens
The police department issued a news release warning residents about the phone calls in an effort to inform them of the dangers of these telephone scams and how to best identify and speak with a fraudulent caller.
The individuals behind these scams have called local residents to notify them that they have recently been awarded a large prize. The scammers then informed the residents that in order to receive the prize, he or she must put a large sum of money on a credit or debit card and, without speaking to anyone else, give the card number to them.
The Athens Police Department has received numerous complaints of these calls from local residents, so far reporting only one case of a person falling victim to the scam.
The reported victim, an unidentified Athens woman, was contacted by a caller claiming to represent Publisher’s Clearing House, a magazine circulation company. Obeying the caller’s instructions, the woman proceeded to purchase two VISA cards from Wal-Mart on two separate occasions, giving the caller a total of $899. Upon receiving the second card number, the caller asked for a third payment from the woman, at which point she refused.
Police have identified the numbers used in these calls as five separate numbers from Jamaica’s 876 area code and another from the Las Vegas area.
Police have also made contact with one of the perpetrators of these calls, reporting that he identified himself as “James Peters,” and that in a phone conversation with a police officer, he “was very rude, vulgar and threatening.”
Falling victim to these calls has become increasingly common in recent years. Telemarketing fraud has become a multi-billion dollar business in the U.S., and, in 2008, Americans sent over $30 million to Jamaica’s 876 area code in order to claim fraudulent lottery winnings, according to an article by the Associated Press.
Police warn that once someone has fallen victim to these calls, it is extremely difficult to retrieve any money or personal information sent over the phone, so the best way to prevent being conned is to be aware.
Seeing an unfamiliar area code on caller ID, hearing an unfamiliar accent on the other side of the line or being urged to hurry in order to not miss an offer are common signs of telemarketing scams. Asking questions and double-checking information are vital before giving a caller any money or personal information.
The police advisory also noted that legitimate companies and businesses do commonly call residents, however they are recognizable from scammers in that they will accept a “no thank you” while scammers will become increasingly persistent in their solicitations.
Police advised residents how to respond incase of a fraudulent call: “Politely say ‘Goodbye, please do not call back’ and hang up the phone. Should they call back, do not answer the phone.”
If you believe that you have been the victim of one of these phone scams, you are urged to contact your local police department.