Yuma-area residents targeted in telephone scams
• Do not assume a credible-looking website is credible. Anyone can create a website that looks legitimate.
• If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
• Be cautious of unsolicited emails and phone calls - many are fraudulent.
• Be wary of anyone who asks for personal information. Do not give out any information to a person, business or website you have not verified with a reputable source.
• Your Social Security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Do not give it out.
• Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you and claims to be from a company with whom you have an account, like a bank, credit card or phone company. If they ask for information that the business already has, do not give it to them. Call the company independently, using the contact information on your statement or from the official website.
• Do not respond to offers that demand you act immediately or won't take “no” for an answer.
Phantom debt collectors have been using intimidating phone calls to try and scam Yuma-area residents out of their money.
A local woman, K. Onwiler, was a target of the scam recently.
According to Onwiler, a person contacted the human resources department at her place of employment and stated she was in “massive debt, and had not been paying my bills, and that I had 24 hours to call them back or they would come to my place of business and arrest me,” she said.
The caller insisted Onwiler call “Officer Alex White” at 225-435-9095, a phone number with a southern Louisiana area code.
Onwiler was highly suspicious and looked up the number online, where she discovered multiple complaints, including one from another Yuma-area resident.
On the website http://800notes.com/Phone.aspx/1-225-435-9095, 20 different targets of the scam posted about their experiences.
“I just received a call from 225-435-9095, and they told me I would be put in jail if I didn't pay a huge sum of money,” one person posted. “They told me they would show up at my work and arrest me.”
Another commentator, who used the alias “Dude from Yuma,” posted, “I have been getting these same harassing calls as well as texts. Over and over...”
Now confident she was the target of a scam, Onwiler decided to contact “White.”
“I blocked my phone number and I called them back,” she said.
The person on the other end answered “this is the law office,” but didn't specify whose law office it was.
“The guy had an extremely thick Indian accent,” Onwiler said.
After Onwiler told the man she was returning a phone call, he said “you need to give us your full name, your Social Security number and the number we called you at.”
“Like hell I am going to give you that information,” she replied, and asked to speak with “White.”
The man said “White” was extremely busy and couldn't be bothered with her, before once again demanding her Social Security number. He then told her “I know who you are. We will come and arrest you. You owe a lot of money.”
Onwiler wasn't fooled. She hung up the phone and contacted the Yuma Police Department.
“He would have been intimidating to me if I hadn't been prepared to go into it and had not investigated it first,” she said.
Sgt. Leanne Worthen, YPD public information officer, said Yuma residents need to be aware of such phishing attempts.
“Do not respond to offers that demand you act immediately or won't take ‘no' for an answer,” she said. “Most people are not contacted by phone about a warrant for their arrest. If they receive a call like this, call your local police department.”
In addition, residents should “be cautious of unsolicited emails and phone calls – many are fraudulent,” Worthen said. “Be wary of anyone who asks for personal information. Do not give out any information to a person, business or website you have not verified with a reputable source. Your Social Security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Do not give it out.”
According to law enforcement officials who spoke to ABC Nightline in June, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been targeted with similar scams. The perpetrators are suspected of operating out of call centers in Ahmedabad, India, and may be linked to organized crime in that country.
“This is what we call a phantom debt collection scam,” Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, told ABC. “It's a very pernicious and innovative new fraud.”
The FTC continues to investigate such scams, and warns US citizens to remain vigilant against them.
For more information about fraud, scams or ID theft, long onto http://www.ftc.gov/, http://www.azag.gov/, http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/, or http://www.privacyrights.org/.