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‘These calls are a scam,’ Bellingham Police and Fire Departments warn

Survey: Most can’t recognize scammer tactics

Washington residents aren't as good at recognizing common scams as they think, according to a new survey by the state AARP.
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Washington residents aren't as good at recognizing common scams as they think, according to a new survey by the state AARP.

Bellingham Police and Fire officials are warning of a possible phone scam involving donation solicitations.

Both city departments posted recently on social media that they don’t make phone calls seeking contributions.

“Scam alert!” said a Bellingham Fire Department tweet on Tuesday, May 14. “We are getting reports of phone calls from individuals saying they are with the Fire Department and are asking for donations for a fire department fundraiser. These calls are a scam, and are not from the Bellingham Fire Department.”

Police officials tweeted a similar message May 3.

“Reports of folks getting calls from a city of Bellingham number with a BPD sergeant wanting to tell you you have a warrant and to send money,” the tweet said.

“This is a scam. We will never ask for money,” the tweet continued.

Anyone who gets such a call was advised to disconnect and report online to the Federal Trade Commission.

Bellingham Fire Captain Dave Pethick, who’s vice president of Local 106 International Association of Fire Fighters, said firefighters participate in fundraising events for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Firefighter Strairclimb, but those are not phone solicitations.

“We would never make robocalls. That’s not us,” Pethick told The Bellingham Herald.

AVOIDING SCAM CALLS

Scammers often try to disguise their identities by spoofing the information that appears in your call identification display and trick you into answering. They use local area codes, numbers that may look familiar of even impersonate a legitimate business, utility or government agency. The Federal Communications Commission offers these tips to avoid being scammed:

▪ Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t know.

▪ If you answer and get someone unexpected, hang up immediately.

▪ Don’t hit a button to stop getting calls, hang up instead.

▪ Don’t assume an unexpected call, even if it appears it’s from a business you know, is legitimate. Hang up and call back a number you can verify from a bill or official website to confirm.

▪ Always be suspicious, as scammers can be very convincing by asking what seem to be innocent questions, offering things too good to be true or making threats.

▪ Never give out personal information, such as account numbers, social security number or passwords, or answer security questions.

▪ If you are being pressured for immediate payment, use extreme caution.

▪ Look into call blocking apps for cell phones and ask about how to block calls on landlines.

▪ Report any spoof scams to local law enforcement, the FCC and FTC.

More information: fcc.gov/spoofing.

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Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.
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