PROSPECT — Two elderly Prospect women became the victims of the same telephone scam this month.
The way the scam works is the caller, who claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service, tells the victim that he or she owes back taxes and threatens that the victim will be arrested if the money isn’t immediately paid.
The first victim reported the scam to Prospect police on Aug. 14. According to the police report, the victim wired $3,940 before realizing it was a scam.
Prospect Resident State Trooper Matt Comeau said a second woman became a victim of the same scam recently.
“With the IRS scam they threaten them, saying agents will show up at their house and arrest them if they don’t pay,” Comeau said.
Comeau said the caller kept the second victim on the phone the whole time as she drove into town to buy pre-paid cards in order to pay the money.
After the woman had purchased the cards and gave the numbers to the caller, a store clerk noticed what she was doing and informed her it was a scam, Comeau said.
By that time it was too late and the woman had lost thousands of dollars.
“As soon as she gave him the numbers he had the money. It happens that fast,” Comeau said.
There have also been reports of other telephone scams throughout the year.
One scam involves a caller claiming to be from the “National Security Fraud Department.” The caller says money has been taken out of a bank account in error and the department needs a person’s account number to put the money back in.
In some cases a caller claims to be from Connecticut Light and Power and asks for billing information. Another popular scam involves someone claiming to represent an organization like Publishers Clearing House that is giving away prize money.
In the case of the prize money scams, the caller will ask for money to be wired to them or put on a pre-paid card in order to release the prize money.
The Federal Trade Commission receives tens of thousands of complaints about illegal phone calls every week, with the majority of the scams targeting the elderly, according to information on the commission’s website.
Comeau said companies and government agencies will never call a person up and just ask for their credit card numbers or bank accounts. If a person receives a call like this it is almost certainly a scam, he said.
Lt. Bryan Cammarata, spokesman for the Naugatuck Police Department, echoed Comeau’s warnings about giving out personal information, saying it could tip a person off that the caller is not who he or she claims to be.
“A red flag is if they solicit you, asking you for personal information such as your bank account or social security number,” Cammarata said.
Comeau said if a person is taken by a scam they should report it immediately.
“Call your local police department and they can point you in the right direction and help you out,” Comeau said.
Victims of telephone scams can also report them on the Federal Trade Commission’s website, www.ftc.gov.
Cammarata said if a person is the victim of a scam it can be hard to track the scammer down because they are often in a different country.
“If the money is sent, they may have a hard time,” Cammarata said.
Comeau said people are using both new and old scams to trick people.
“Just because there are new scams out there it doesn’t mean all the old ones aren’t out there too,” Comeau said.