The Las Cruces Police Department has received at least one report that a perpetrator is calling local residents, claiming to be a representative of the department, and demanded money or credit information in exchange for avoiding arrest.
LCPD is reminding residents that the collection of any debt is a civil matter and the Las Cruces Police Department, and most law enforcement agencies, have limited roles in civil matters. Police will not make an arrest simply for an outstanding debt.
Some of the most common scams reported to the Las Cruces Police Department:
- The Mystery Shopper – An Internet ad recruits ‘mystery shoppers’ who are sent a check to be deposited. Cash from deposited check is supposed to be used to purchase products. However, the mystery shopper ‘company’ then asks victim to return a portion of original check, which they do. Original check turns out to be bogus and victim is left without funds and possibly a few unwanted products which they purchased.
- The Job Posting – Similar to “The Mystery Shopper” scam, an Internet ad recruits for babysitter or some other type of job. Upon being ‘hired’ (somehow without a face-to-face interview), the victim is sent an advance check for work that has not been done, and for significantly more than what is ‘owed.’ The ‘company’ then asks victim to return the overpayment usually by money order or Western Union.
- The Relative or Friend in Need – The unsuspecting victim, usually the elderly but more recently physician offices, receives a call saying that a relative or friend is in some type of predicament (crash, hospitalization or under arrest) and needs cash immediately. The victim wire transfers or otherwise sends money to the perpetrator of the scam.
- The Overzealous Creditor – The victim receives a call from a ‘creditor’ who claims they are past due on an account. The perpetrator threatens to send police to make an arrest if the debt is not paid immediately and requests a wire transfer or money transfer. On a side note, the collection of any debt is a civil matter and the Las Cruces Police Department and most law enforcement agencies have limited roles in civil matters. Police will not make an arrest simply for an outstanding debt.
- The Lottery Winner – Someone receives a call from a ‘lottery’ claiming that they’ve won thousands, possibly millions of dollars. However, in order to claim the winnings, the victim must first send a check or transfer funds to the ‘lottery’ headquarters.
- The Verification Call – The victim receives a call from someone who claims to work for Medicare, their bank or credit card and insists that their account number or other personal information must be verified. In reality, the caller is fishing for information and is relying on the victim to provide personal or financial information.
- The Lease or Rental Property – The unsuspecting victim sees an online ad for a lease or rental property but the ‘owner’ or ‘leaseholder’ is unable to meet in person. The victim mails or electronically transfers a deposit and rent, and then finds out that they’ve been victimized. Many times the ads for this scam use photos of actual properties that are legitimately listed on the Internet. Because those photos can easily be copied from the legitimate Internet ad and pasted in a bogus ad, it’s recommended that prospective renters deal directly and in-person with the real estate agent or the property’s owner.
The Las Cruces Police Department suggests following these simple rules to protect yourself from potential scams:
- Avoid revealing personal or financial information to people you do now know.
- Verify information and who you’re dealing with before revealing personal or financial information, or providing financial assistance.
- Never provide personal or financial information to someone who initiated the phone call or contact. And do not simply return a phone call to a phone number they provide as it is quite possibly a bogus phone number. Instead, call the phone number on the back of your credit card or the phone number found on your statement.
- Do not accept an offer to be a go-between in a financial situation that requires you to deposit a check into your account, and then return or forward a check from your account.
- Do not send money via Western Union or any other electronic services unless you are absolutely sure who is receiving the funds.
- Do not obligate yourself to a rental property without first meeting with the owner or leaseholder, and actually viewing the property – inside and out – on your own.
- Do not accept an offer of employment that is contingent on depositing a check into your account with the obligation of returning a portion of it.
- Do not believe you’re the winner of a lottery – usually a lottery you never entered – if it requires that you send money to the ‘lottery headquarters’ prior to receiving prize money.
- Do not pay for goods or services in advance unless you have absolute confidence in the business and are certain of the transaction. Written contracts for automobile and home repairs or remodels are strongly suggested.
- Be cautions of goods, services or job opportunities that are found on social or user-posted websites, or Web-based classified ads.
- Do your homework prior to entering into any financial agreement.
- Shred obsolete personal and financial information before disposing in a trash receptacle.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau with concerns or complaints about a business.
- Remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The Las Cruces Police Department encourages those who have been victimized by a financial scam – especially if they have been harmed or actually lost money to a scam – to contact their local law enforcement agency and file a report as soon as possible.
Information from Las Cruces Police