Holiday con artists


PORT ISABEL — As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season continues, this police department is cautioning the public to be aware of phone scammers.

The Port Isabel Police Department received close to 10 reports from people experiencing phone scams last Friday and Saturday.

Chief Robert Lopez said these recent scams have been involving the police department’s phone number and the scammers are asking people to purchase reloadable cards such as MoneyPak, Reloadit, gift cards, iTunes and/or Google Pay.

“According to the complaints we were getting, they were getting a call from our number stating they owed fines and needed to get a gift card to pay them,” Lopez explained. “We don’t work that way and want to alert the public that it’s not coming from us.”

Lopez said the police department does not make calls asking people to purchase gift cards of any sort to pay citations or warrants.

He recommends anyone who receives a suspicious call to file a report with their local police department.

Recent scammers haven’t only been calling people disguised with the police department’s number.

Lopez said in early November, the police department received reports of phone scammers pretending to work for Magic Valley Electric Cooperative and threatening to disconnect service for nonpayment.

The scammers demanded immediate payment by prepay cards that can be purchased at local retail stores.

Police department personnel said 1-800-460-9594 was the number used by scammers and they verified with Magic Valley Electric Cooperative representatives that the calls were a scam.

According to Luis Reyes, Magic Valley Electric Cooperative’s communication coordinator, these kinds of scams have been occurring for several years.

“We periodically post on social media when we know there is a high volume of calls that let us know this is happening,” Reyes said. “Unfortunately, it happens not just to our members, but to pretty much all utilities across the Valley and state.”

According to Reyes, weekends, holidays and summer are prime times for phone scams.

He said it’s important for customers to know the company does not call them demanding payments or threatening to disconnect their services.

“Our process is different. “If for some reason, the member doesn’t pay their bill on time, the system will automatically send a notification to their mail,” Reyes explained. “We do have a grace period for the most part between 10 to 14 days typically called a disconnect notice so that’s pretty much the process.”


• Be cautious of caller ID. Scammers can change the phone number that shows up on your caller ID screen, which is called “spoofing.”

• Be wary of callers claiming you’ve won a prize or vacation package.

• Hang up on suspicious phone calls.

• Don’t give in to pressure to take immediate action.

• Don’t say anything if a caller starts the call asking, “Can you hear me?” This is a common tactic for scammers to record you saying “yes.” Scammers record your “yes” response and use it as proof that you agreed to a purchase or credit card change.

• Don’t provide your credit card number, bank account information or other personal information to a caller.

• Don’t send money if a caller tells you to wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card.

Source — USAGov