PUNXSUTAWNEY – Pennsylvania State Police are reminding the public to be vigilant of others seeking personal information over the phone or the Internet.
Police said they received a call from a member of the community saying an unknown person identified themselves as a Pennsylvania State Police sergeant. This stranger tried to obtain information about another member of his family.
“We’ve seen well-educated, successful people send their life savings to someone they’ve never met in person because they thought they were in love,” said Major David Relph, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations. “And once that money is sent, it’s almost impossible to get it back. These scammers usually operate in foreign countries, which makes it extremely difficult to track them down.
The Pennsylvania State Police offers the following reminders to avoid scams:
Never transfer money to someone you haven’t met in person. Scammers use wire transfer services like Western Union because transactions are difficult to trace. Other methods include prepaid credit cards and gift cards.
Go slowly. Remember that someone calling you about a family member may be trying to obtain personal information about you or someone you may know.
Talk to your family and friends. A scammer will probably come up with a reason why the relationship should be kept secret. A trusted friend or relative may be able to offer valuable perspective and spot any red flags you may have missed.
Do your research. Scammers often use stolen images and information to create their online personas. A simple search on the Internet can generate several profiles with similar photos and information.
Trust your instincts. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something is wrong. If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to the police.
Some of the most reported scams are:
Adoption fraud, business and investment fraud, business email compromise, charity and disaster fraud, consumer fraud, senior citizen fraud, election and security crimes, healthcare fraud, holiday scams , financial mule, ransomware, romance scams, sextortion scams, skimming and impersonation and phishing. These are just some of the main fraud and scam topics used.
“People don’t report these types of crimes out of embarrassment or shame, but simply stopping the flow of money isn’t enough,” Relph said. “Once they have gained access to personal or sensitive information, scammers have been known to continue to target their victims through blackmail and identity theft.”
According to the FBI, Americans lost $197 million to romance scams and similar fraud in 2015.
For more information on the Pennsylvania State Police, please visit www.psp.pa.gov.