Somebody’s been posing as an officer of the Milpitas Police Department.

A city resident received a phone call. The caller announced himself as a Milpitas Police Sergeant by the name of Hardy Watson. The resident’s caller ID showed the business phone number of the Milpitas Police Department, so by all appearances, the call was entirely legitimate…

But the caller was not a real police officer. He’d made use of spoofing technology to mask his actual phone number. The victim was told that her bank accounts had been compromised, and that a translator and immigration official would next come on the line to discuss the matter further.

When the phony translator got on the call, the victim was told she needed to make an appointment with the Social Security Administration. Making this appointment would cost money. And the only acceptable form of payment was Google Play gift cards.

The victim went ahead and bought the cards, providing the numbers and PINS for the use thereof to the apparent translator.

In a press release, the Milpitas Police Department reminded residents to be wary of phone calls in which people claiming to be the authorities present a previously unknown crisis, and state that paying money is the way to resolve it. According to the press release: “The fictitious problem or crisis can include an arrest warrant, an immigration issue, delinquent taxes, a relative in jail, or a kidnapped relative. The money demanded can be in the form of prepaid gift cards or money wire transfers through private money transfer companies.”

An authentic governmental agency never accepts payments in the form of prepaid gift cards or through third-party money transfer entities.

Keep an ear out for calls like these. Note that those with landlines are more likely to be targeted. And despite long-standing stereotypes about fraud victims being little old ladies with impaired functioning, according to Forbes, traits like high self-confidence, a high risk tolerance, and openness to communication with strangers (i.e., being inclined to stay on the phone despite not knowing the caller), make one into vulnerable scam targets.

Scam callers won’t always pose as police officers. Any caller who’s unknown yet claiming to have authority (government-wise, finance-wise, etc.) could be a scammer. A key identifying feature is these callers’ willingness to play on people’s emotions. As with the Milpitas resident’s experience, the caller might drum up a sudden crisis, spurring an emotional reaction. The victims’ emotions cloud his or her ability to slow down, stop, and think things through. Solving the apparent problem (which requires a payment) may seem much easier in the moment.

Those with tips can give the MPD a call: (408) 586-2400. If you prefer anonymity, phone the Crime Tip Hotline: (408) 586-2500. The MPD’s website is available for leaving tips, too: http://www.ci.milpitas.ca.gov/crimetip

 

Eric Shapiro
Eric Shapiro is a writer and filmmaker. He is the author of six critically acclaimed fiction books, among them the novella "It's Only Temporary" (2005), which appeared on Nightmare Magazine's list of the Top 100 Horror Books, and numerous short stories published in anthologies alongside work by H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and many others. His nonfiction articles have been published on The Daily Dot, Ravishly, and The Good Men Project. His first feature film, "Rule of 3" (2010), won awards at the Fantasia International Film Festival and Shriekfest, and had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest. His second feature film, "Living Things" (2014), was endorsed by PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) and distributed by Cinema Libre Studio. In 2015, he won the 19th Annual Fade In Award for Thriller Screenplays. He was a founding partner of Ghostwriters Central, a writing and editing firm which received positive notices from The Wall Street Journal, Consumers Digest, and the TV program "Intelligence For Your Life." Eric has edited works published on The Huffington Post and Forbes, as well as two Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels.

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