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Phone scam tries to intimidate Connecticut residents

Published 10:45 am, Tuesday, April 2, 2013
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At least two Connecticut residents have received recent calls from people claiming to be from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but they did not fall for the scammers' pressurized pitch, according to the state Department of Consumer Protection.

"We've been notified by a resident that she and a friend both got similar calls recently from people indicating that they were with the FBI and threatening legal action," Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein said. "Thankfully, neither resident was taken in by the intimidation, which could be quite alarming to many."

The caller, who used the names John Wright and Adam Scott in the scam attempts, left messages on a West Hartford resident's answering machine, indicating that charges were being brought against her and asking for a return phone call. The resident ignored the messages.

In the other case, the caller reached a potential victim by phone in Manchester and, claiming to be a representative of the "FBI crime investigation department," informed her that a "legal court file had been charged against her and her identity." The caller then asked if she had been contacted earlier in the week by Connecticut state police, outlining the charges. After the potential victim said she would first call the FBI in New Haven to confirm the truth of this information, the caller angrily informed her that she had half an hour to surrender herself or "they would come get" her.

"This type of call can be very intimidating to anyone, and we have notified the FBI office in New Haven," Rubenstein said. "Given the boldness of these calls, it bears repeating that consumers should hang up on any phone call that claims to be from the FBI, particularly calls seeking personal information or money. In these cases, the scammer didn't get a chance to ask for what he was after because the consumers didn't take the bait."

Fake FBI phone calls seem to be a newer twist on the FBI email scams that date back to 2008, and have been seen in Connecticut. Last fall, at least one Connecticut resident fell victim to an "FBI" email scam that demanded payment of a fine for allegedly downloading child pornography. The virus attached to the email locked up the recipient's computer and was informed he or she needed to pay a $200 fine through a pre-paid debit card.

The FBI never sends emails or calls people to threaten an arrest, ask for money or request personal information, but unfortunately there are victims who lose hundreds of dollars through these scams. In the rare instance that someone gets a call from the FBI, the best strategy is to ask the caller for the agency's number, hang up, research the number to make sure it's legitimate, and then call back to verify the call.

Rubenstein stated that the latest would-be victims both did the right thing by refusing to play the caller's game, and have probably saved themselves from future scam attempts.

"Once a scammer realizes they have someone who may be vulnerable to being victimized, they are going to continue to try victimizing that person, until the person either gives in or refuses to cooperate anymore," Rubenstein said.

Consumers should also not be deceived by callers who already have a date of birth or Social Security number. There are ways that scammers can get their hands on some piece of information, and contact their victims with the hope of getting more information that will help them access additional records or financial accounts.

"The FBI strongly encourages anyone who receives a telephone call from someone representing to be from the FBI, to verify the information provided in that call with their local FBI field office," Kimberly K. Mertz, special agent in charge of the FBI in New Haven, said. "The main telephone numbers for the FBI in New Haven are 203-777-6311 and 203-503-5000. It is also important to remember that the FBI would never threaten anyone with arrest over the telephone or solicit money at any time. If you have concerns, hang up and call us immediately."