Hackettstown Police Department - 215 W. Stiger St. Hackettstown, NJ 07840
Emergency: 911 | Non-Emergency: (908) 852-3300 | Office: (908) 852-3302| Fax: (908) 852-8357

Safety & Prevention

phone scams and extortion schemes

Using social media and dating sites to conduct business or meet people can have hidden dangers and result in some unpleasant conversations with the person(s) on the other end of your chat or phone call. More recently, these scammers will try everything from threatening you with arrest, physical harm, black mail, etc. You need to be aware that your use of the internet to buy and sell things, or meet people socially, has to be done with extreme caution and extreme verification measures. Below are a list of a few scams that have, and continue to, affect our residents and what you should do:

The Utility Bill ScamSomeone calls and pretends to be from your local utility. You are informed you are behind on your bill and if you don't pay immediately, service will be cut off. If you fall for the ruse you immediately pull out your credit card and give them the billing information. Worse still, you might give them a way to access your bank account.

Action you should take: Hang up and call the utility company at the phone number listed on your bill to see if there is a real issue. Never give personal information to a phone solicitor demanding payment. Call the company at a number that you know is legit. These scammers often use technology to trick your Caller ID as well, making you think they are calling from the company itself.

The IRS Scam - The caller calls from a Washington D.C. number or even a number identified by your caller ID as "The IRS" or "Internal Revenue Svc". They tell you there was an error on your tax return and that you owe money. They demand immediate payment via Green Dot Cards, Western Union, Banking Information, Credit Card Info, etc. They threaten you with arrest or asset seizure if you do not pay immediately.

Action you should take: The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment, or other enforcement action. See also: How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door.

The 'Underage Dating' Scam - You meet a person online who says they are of legal age. After you establish an online relationshsip, they may begin to ask you for money. Eventually, after you make arrangements to meet, you are contacted by an individual pretending to be Law Enforcement. They tell you that the person you were speaking with is actually underage, and threaten to arrest you if you do not pay money to the victim's family. 

Action you should take: Do not send any money and do not continue to talk with the individual making these threats. Contact your local police department for an investigation. You should not delete any messages or profiles associated with your conversations with the person threatening you or the user you originally made contact with that lead to the threats.

Online Sales Scams - You offer something for sale or rent on Craigslist or another online marketplace. A potential buyer contacts you and offers to make the purchase, however, the purchase involves you sending them money as well, or, they ask to pay you via check or some other form of payment that does not process or verify instantly. 

Action you should take: If you believe the buyer is legit, you should sell the product via a verified payment gateway such as PayPal, eBay, Amazon, etc. Although these websites often have fees associated with them, they typically verify funds prior to processing a transaction. If you arrange to meet in person to process the sale, you should do so in a safe, well-lit, public area where there are plenty of people around.

The Job Applicant Scam - Someone calls you after finding your resume online. They offer you a chance at an interview, or even a job right away, but require that you pay an application or processing fee. Scammers will also request your personal information, ask you to buy software or some other product associated with the job, or request payment from you for some other reason.

Action you should take: Verify the company is legit by thoroughly researching the company. If the company  is close enough, visit them in person at the address listed on their website, and speak with a Human Resources representative regarding the job offer. If the company is too far away to visit, you will have to do extensive research (White pages, yellow pages, Better Business Bureau, and even checking with the state records to see if the business is registered in their state). These scams are often difficult to detect, however, if the offer seems lucrative without ever interviewing with the company, you should be cautious.

The Infected Computer Scam - Someone calls and pretends to be from Microsoft, Apple, or some other computer company. They claim that they have notice or record that your computer is infected. They offer to repair your computer and attempt to get you to download a shared-screen application that grants them remote access to your computer. They also demand an initial payment either before, during, or after they access your computer.

Action you should take: Hang up and never grant access to your computer or give payment information to a phone soilicitor. If you have reason to believe your computer has a virus, purchase anit-virus software or take your computer to your local computer repair store or dealer.

There is one recurring theme to all of these scams, they contact you demanding money or personal information while pretending to be someone else. Take the time to verify who you are dealing with and reasearch them before you decide to do anything. More often than not, individuals calling you in an attempt to get you to pay up or give information should not be trusted. If you wish to donate money, donate to a reputable cause at an address you know is legit. If you are unsure if you owe money, call the company or agency directly at the phone number you know is a legit phone number. If someone threatens you and demands money, call your local police department to make a report and open an investigation. Initiate your own transactions, by making your own calls, using companies and information you know and trust. Don't let someone call you and make you the next victim of a scam!

Questions about this article can be directed to Ptl. Smith via email
or contact Hackettstown Police Dept. at (908) 852-3302.