Fresno police Friday renewed a warning to citizens to be wary of phone scams, including those from criminals pretending to be Internal Revenue Service agents who tell recipients that they owe money to the government, as well as scammers trying to break into victims’ computers.
Sgt. Brian Rogers said residents report about 400 such cases every month. Many more probably happen without police being notified, he conceded. The crooks posing as IRS agents are extremely aggressive in their efforts to intimidate the unwary.
He said that through internet-available software such as Google Voice, callers can pretend they are calling from a local area code or even from Washington, D.C. The crooks often use Google Maps as well in an effort to direct the unwary to the nearest store, where they can purchase Apple gift cards for use as payment. The mere fact that the caller wants to be paid in such a manner should be a giveaway.
People my age and older are much more trusting in society and business done on a handshake.
Fresno police Sgt. Brian Rogers, 52
Never miss a local story.
But, said the 52-year-old Rogers, “people my age and older are much more trusting in society and business done on a handshake. Younger people are more immune” to the scams.
Computer scams are hitting the Fresno area hard. The call recipient often is old that his or her computer has a virus and the hacker tries to convince the victim to log on to a website where the hacker can seize the computer and get confidential information such as passwords and banking accounts.
Rogers advises anyone who thinks they have become a victim of such a scam to unplug the computer – simply turning it off is often ineffective. Then, take the device to a qualified technician who may be able to undo the damage. In nine out of 10 cases, they can, he said.
There are more insidious attacks out there, Rogers said, such as a cyberattack in which a hacker, often from Eastern Europe or a country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union, breaks into a computer, locks it up and demands a ransom.
Several large businesses, such as hospitals, have been targeted in such a manner. Again, it’s a good idea to unplug the computer and seek help from a professional. Sometimes the computer can be unlocked, but in other instances the victim may have to make a hard decision and pay ransom if the affected information is irreplaceable.
Rogers said one attack that seems to be occurring locally involves a hacker who gathers information about the staff of a business or organization and spoofs someone who works there into sending the hacker money.
For example, the chief financial officer receives an official-looking email that appears to be from another company officer asking for a cash wire transfer. The email may appear to be legitimate without close scrutiny. Rogers’ advice: Always confirm such a money transfer with a phone call.
People who suspect they may be the victim of an Internal Revenue phone scam should call the IRS at 800-366-4484.