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Scammers hit area with phone calls designed to steal

Date: 4/19/2018

AGAWAM – The Agawam Police Department is warning residents of an ongoing phone scam involving warrant procedures.

On April 7, the department released a statement on their Facebook page saying telephone scammers are targeting local residents. The scammers are claiming a warrant is out for the victim’s arrest, and the only way to get out of the warrant is by sending the callers money or gift cards. Two of the phone numbers involved are 845-010-9158 and 845-210-9158.

Many residents who have received these prank calls have taken to the “Agawam, MA” Facebook forum, an open forum designed for residents to connect with each other and discuss town-related events, to find out if the calls were legitimate.

In early April, Facebook user Dan Fox commented, “Received a robo call from the state of Washington claiming that four  serious allegations had been made against me and if I didn’t call them back within 24 hours ‘I would be taken under custody by the local cops.’ I went up to the station to turn myself in but they said they only take people into custody and not under custody and that typically a legitimate organization wouldn't refer to them as ‘cops’ Also they had no idea what I was talking about and said I was free to go. So relieved. I’ve never been further west then Toledo!”

Pauline B LaBelle Sawyer submitted a similar post on April 10, writing, “Got a phone call and the beginning was not recorded but we will be taken under custody by local cops because there are four serious allegations against us. We are supposed to call them. LOL the phone number is from Buffalo NY - 716-381-4235. Wonder if I should report it to the police department.”

Agawam Police Lieutenant Jennifer Blanchette told Reminder Publications around 100 people have been targeted by the calls in the last several months. She added that the department is advising people to ignore the calls and refrain from giving out any personal information.

“They [victims of the scam calls] can simply hang up and ignore it. We had an individual that was concerned because they were wondering if the scammers called because they had their personal information and now were a victim of identity fraud,” she said. “But, that’s not the case. They are just phishing and hoping to catch one person. Just ignore it. They’re not going to come banging on your door.”

Residents may also report the calls to the department, she said.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Fraud Watch Network, which provides tips and resources to help spot identify theft and fraud, these types of “caller ID spoofs” are becoming more common in the scamming world – making up a majority of phone scams. In most cases, the caller will hide their actual phone number and pretend to be an authority or law enforcement representative, such as the situation happening in Agawam.

“The caller ID system is now laid out in such a way, with the help of voiceovers and the internet, where these scammers are able to make you think that it is the police department or IRS calling you,” said AARP Massachusetts State Director?Mike Festa. “Because the caller ID shows up that way, it’s a great way to sadly get you to let your guard down, at least for the people who don’t think twice about this kind of stuff.”

As Festa mentioned, scammers are now using internet-based phone services that can allow callers to choose their area code and the prefix number that shows up on caller ID. They pretend to call from a government agency, utility company, bank or tech company. Their goal, he explained, is to appear trustworthy so the call is answered, before angling for your money or phishing for personal information that could be used for identify theft. Instilling fear is a common way to obtain that information.

There were over 6,000 cases of identify theft and 33,000 fraud reports in Massachusetts last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The federal agency releases a data book each year on consumer complaints and scams reported to the agency in the prior year.

The top complaint for 2017 was debt collections, followed by identity theft and imposter scams. The report also revealed that younger people were more likely to become victims than people aged 70 or older – but older victims lost more money. About 70 percent of the reported scams happened over the phone.

In addition to either not answering a prank call or immediately hanging up if you do, the AARP suggests the following:

• If you answer, don't speak. A “live” person on the other end will start a conversation, but several seconds of dead silence indicates it’s a robocall using voice-activated technology to transfer you, or at least play a message.

• If you speak, say nothing of value. That includes providing or even confirming your name, account numbers, anything that helps phoning fraudsters identify you. If the caller claims to be with a company you do business with, hang up and call the customer service number listed on your statements, in the phone book or on the company’s website. If the caller claims to be with a government agency, hang up. The IRS, Medicare, Social Security and other government agencies do not make unsolicited phone calls.

• If you have a voicemail account with your phone service, set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. If you don't have a password, scammers could spoof your home number and gain access to your voicemail.

• If it’s not personal, assume it’s a scam. Unlike automated but personalized reminder calls from doctor's offices or a pharmacy, scam robocall campaigns do not mention your name or other personal identifiers. That's because thousands or millions of others get the identical message.

• The best advice is to ignore unknown numbers, even those that appear to be coming from your local area. That’s because once you pick up and engage with the call, you're telling the software that yours is a real number, and you may then receive even more calls.

• In addition, it’s a good idea not to use your phone number to sign up for services- online or in-person- if it's not required. Scammers get their contacts from all sorts of sources, and it’s best to try to stay off as many lists as possible. And, if you haven't already, sign up for the FTC's Do Not Call registry – it may not keep away the scam artists, but it should cut down on calls from telemarketers.    

• Be aware that you can’t rely on your caller ID. And if your bank is really calling you, it will already have your account and PIN numbers. So provide no info to callers and don't reply to text messages. If you're told there's a problem with your account, look up the bank's number yourself and call to verify.

• If you already fell for this ruse, immediately notify your bank to change your account numbers. Within the next two to six weeks, check your credit report for free at to determine if fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name.

For more resources and other watchdog alerts from the AARP, head over to

To report a scam to the FTC visit