Crime

‘Hackers, scammers and cheaters are trying to stay one step ahead of us,’ police say

‘Please do not buy into these scam calls, simply hang up’

A computer-synthesized voice claiming to be an FBI agent with a warrant for your arrest is just one of the telephone scams police have warned about recently.
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A computer-synthesized voice claiming to be an FBI agent with a warrant for your arrest is just one of the telephone scams police have warned about recently.

Bellingham’s St. Joseph hospital warned in a Facebook post that it had learned of a scam attempt in Whatcom County by somebody identifying themselves as being from PeaceHealth.

According to the post, which was made Wednesday, May 29, a resident of Lynden informed the hospital that he received a call from “PeaceHealth” notifying him that he’d been awarded free trips to Florida and other “delightful places.”

All the target had to do was give the caller a credit or debit card number to process the giveaway.

“While we’d love to provide exotic and relaxing getaways to everyone in our community, our typical giveaways are Fitbits or health-related items and are the result of raffles that you would have knowingly entered,” the post read. “This is a scam. ... Please protect yourself and others from this con artist.”

Unfortunately, this scam is not the only one targeting Whatcom County residents recently.

The Bellingham Police Department log showed officers investigating two other scams on Tuesday, May 28. Lt. Claudia Murphy detailed them:

The first involved the scammer calling and saying a family member was in trouble with the law and money needed to be sent via Western Union. Murphy said the loss for the victim of this particular scam was more than $8,000.

“The only advice we have is to remind people that government agencies do not ever demand payment via the phone or internet,” Murphy told The Bellingham Herald. “We especially do not request cash funds be sent via Western Union (or any money transfer company) or that the victim send money via the purchase of gift cards.

“If you get called about a relative being in trouble with the law, insist on knowing which agency it is and call them directly to speak to someone. Never believe the caller, especially if they are insisting and demanding money and making the situation sound more dire as the phone call goes along. We don’t do that.”

The second was an apartment scam, in which the con artist used a legitimate real estate agent’s name during communications with prospective renters. Murphy said they gave a “seemingly plausible” excuse why the apartment couldn’t be shown until nearly $2,000 was paid by the victims, who showed up to view the apartment and found it actually wasn’t for rent.

“It is a reminder that even if things seem on the up-and-up, double and triple check the legitimacy of the people with whom you are communicating,” Murphy said. “For instance, double check the Realtor you are talking to, look for a different phone number or email address or directly call the office for whom they work, using a phone number or email sourced from a different place than what you were given by the scammer.

“It is down to the fact that we (the consumer) need to be hyper-vigilant in this day and age, as the hackers, scammers and cheaters are trying to stay one step ahead of us.”

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.

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