If you receive a phone call from Maryland State Police claiming you’re part of a criminal investigation and requesting personal information from you, don’t worry. You’re not in any trouble … unless you decide to give them the information they’re seeking.
State police are warning the public about a recent phone scam, in which the caller cloned the number of the Maryland State Police barrack in St. Mary’s County. When the victim answer the call, which displayed on her caller ID as “Maryland State Government” and the number of the Leonardtown barrack, she was told she was a suspect in a drug trafficking investigation and that she needed to provide them with her Social Security number and other identifying personal information, police said.
It’s unclear whether the victim gave the caller any additional information, but she did call the real state police back to report the phone call. It’s one of many phone scams that have been reported to state police in recent weeks.
On the Eastern Shore, the Salisbury barrack reported scams in which victims received calls and were threatened with family members being detained or being arrested themselves if they did not provide money, account numbers or purchase re-loadable gift or credit cards.
Another scam reported, and one sure to be popular during tax season, involves the caller posing as an IRS representative making claims about you owing the government money. The Cumberland barrack encountered a similar scam where the caller said they were from the Social Security Administration and requested money and threatening to involve law enforcement.
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In almost all of these cases, the scammers are using technology to disguise their number, using local area codes and phone number prefixes to make the calls seem local, or from the supposed government agency. This sophisticated technology can fool people into thinking these calls are very real, especially when combined with the scare tactics scammers will use to take advantage of the public.
Law enforcement, the IRS, Social Security and other government agencies will never contact you over the phone to solicit information, services or money. Conversely, you may get scam calls that, instead of threatening you or demanding money, may be a friendly voice telling you that you won something or are owed money, if you just pay a small sum to get things moving or can verify personal information.
Never give out personal, identifying information over the phone and, remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you receive such a call, even if it seems real, you should be skeptical. Your best bet is to hang up, then contact local authorities to report the call. While it can be practically impossible to track down the scammers, police can help share information — much like Maryland State Police did here — to get the word out to other potential victims.
Should you realize after the fact you’ve been a victim of a phone scam and your identity may have been stolen, contact your bank and credit card companies immediately to have your accounts locked or closed, and protect your money. Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338. Again, they may not be able to solve your particular case, but any information may help them identify patterns that can be used to break up theft rings.
It’s also a good idea to get a copy of your credit report to make sure your information hasn’t been used to open a mystery account, and to put a fraud alert on your credit report.
If you experience a phone scam, report it to law enforcement right away and share the details with as many people as possible to prevent others from becoming victims.