Scam alert: ‘It’s all about making a quick buck’

  • DAVID SULLIVAN

Staff Writer
Published: 12/16/2020 4:39:00 PM
Modified: 12/16/2020 4:38:52 PM

The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office is warning against a sharp rise in reported calls from scammers identifying themselves as an employee of the Hampshire and Franklin county sheriff’s offices demanding payment for court charges.

Scammers have been known to identify themselves by name, stating they work in the Civil Division, and then threaten people over the phone by saying they have broken the law by not reporting for a federal grand jury.

“The best thing to do is to hang up, if anyone demands money, payment with gift cards or threatens you,” Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan said in a statement.

Consumers shouldn’t trust their caller ID — it’s best to let any unexpected calls go to voicemail, Sullivan said.

The statement from the district attorney’s office mentioned that these calls often sound convincing and can be intimidating, especially if the caller claims to be a member of law enforcement or from a government agency.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office advised of a scam on its Facebook page, stating “an individual claiming to be a Lt. Jim Brown of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office has been making calls and accusing people of several felonies for missing jury duty for a high-profile case.” The post advises people to hang up the phone.

Anita Wilson, case coordinator in the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office Consumer Protection Unit, said there has also been a recent spike in the number of scams related to Social Security, online order deliveries, billing and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s all about making a quick buck,” she said of the scammers.

Wilson said a common scam is one that involves con artists calling people and claiming they are from the Social Security Administration so they can get an unsuspecting person’s sensitive information.

“The tricky thing about that is they manipulate the caller ID information,” she said. “It’s really tricky to know whose calls to pick up.”

Wilson said a common scam in Franklin County involves random people getting calls or emails under the guise of being from a tech company interested in helping install anti-virus software.

“If you’re giving them access to your computer, you’re giving them access to a lot of your personal information,” she said, adding that this can include banking information and passwords. “If you suspect you have (something wrong with your computer), don’t depend on someone calling you out of the blue. Get help from an expert.”

The holiday season is a busy time of year for scammers. Also common are fake emails from online retailers informing you of a problem with your account, and fake emails or texts about package deliveries.

But perhaps the latest introduction to the world of scams pertains to the novel coronavirus. There are fraudsters out there actively preying upon the fears of a scared population and falsely offering to, for a price, put your name on a list to get a vaccine or get you early access to one. The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office explains that no legitimate health care professional will call you about a vaccine or ask for your Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. For more information, visit bit.ly/37m3t5R and bit.ly/2K0RGkO.

The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers they likely will not need to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine during this public health emergency and to be wary of providers offering other products, treatments or medicines to prevent the virus. You should check with your health care provider before paying for or receiving any COVID-19-related treatment. COVID-19 scams can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Anyone with a consumer problem or question is encouraged to contact the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office Consumer Protection Unit at 413-774-3186 in Greenfield or 413-586-9225 in Northampton.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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