Reports of phone and gift card scams are increasing in the local area, according to the Kanab City Police Department. Police Chief Tom Cram states, “We’re hearing about around four a week - which is probably about a third of how many are actually happening in the area.”
Chief Cram went on to describe some of the calls that have been getting reported to demonstrate how heinous they can be; one such call included a muffled and panicked voice claiming to be the daughter of the individual being scammed. The imposter said she’d been in a car crash with a pregnant woman, that they were in critical condition and that the hospital was holding her without release until car insurance money came through - unless the scam victim could accrue $2,000 in gift cards and message photographs of them to a “nurse’s” phone. The victim took the time to verify, calling his daughter and confirming the story; his daughter was safe and sound, and that call likely saved him thousands of dollars. Other scam plots included stories of last resort antique sales to pay rent and feed hungry children and inheritance taxes to receive a large inheritance - both of which promised to pay the scam victim back, but according to Chief Cram, “Once that money’s sent, it’s gone. There’s no getting it back. These people will do or say anything to get you.
“The scariest ones,” the Chief went on, “are the ones that take the time to clone a contact’s phone number. We’ve gotten reports of people getting texts from numbers they know, with familiar names and contacts … one was asking for eight hundred dollars in gift card codes. The victim got suspicious when the stores in the area put a limit on gift card purchases, so they called the person whose number had messaged them … that individual was on vacation and had no idea what the caller was talking about.”
The police department offered some advice on how to avoid being victimized by these scam attempts. First and foremost: always call or text and confirm when a call is suspiciously asking for money. As the stories above demonstrate, a simple phone call to confirm can save a victim. Second: be suspicious any time you are asked for gift card codes. Gift cards are nearly impossible to track and very hard to refund, which makes them appealing currency for these sorts of scams. Third: just because a number appears to be a person you know doesn’t guarantee it is that person. As technology advances, we need to be aware of more complex forms of fraud, and number cloning is a real possibility. Once again, a simple phone call to the person you know can clear up the issue.
Any victims of these sorts of crimes are encouraged to file a report with the FTC and with the local police department – keeping records of transactions can be helpful in filing these reports.