On June 15, the Methuen Police Department announced it was investigating an increasing number of scam and fraud attempts made against residents in recent months, and offered tips to help community members avoid falling victim.
“In the past 90 days, the department has taken 123 reports of fraud or attempted fraud, and in May alone the department took reports on six scams that victimized Methuen residents, in addition to other fraud cases,” MPD said in a statement. “This represents a significant increase in the amount of fraud and scams being reported to the department. In January and February, there were a total of just 40 fraud attempts reported.”
“Fraud and scam attempts are becoming more and more common in our community and around the region, and we believe that educating the public to help residents avoid falling for scams is one of the best ways we can prevent this nefarious type of crime, which often targets senior residents,” said Police Chief Scott McNamara. “We would like to encourage all residents to familiarize themselves with tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help avoid falling for common scam tactics, and we also encourage younger residents to speak to their parents and other seniors about these issues.”
The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips to help avoid scam attempts:
*Scammers often pretend to be from an organization you know. They might use a real name like the Social Security Administration, the IRS or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company or even a charity asking for donations.
  *Scammers say there’s a problem or prize. They might say you’re in trouble with the government, that you owe money, that someone in your family had an emergency or that there’s a virus on your computer. Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information. Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.
*Scammers pressure you to act immediately. They might tell you not to hang up, preventing you from verifying their claims. They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.
  *Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way. They often insist that you pay by sending money through bitcoin, a money transfer or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.
  *The FTC also recommends that if you get an e-mail or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy, or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.
MPD reminds residents that any arrest or detainment of relatives can be confirmed with the arresting police department or through the local district court clerk’s office, as can the existence of an arrest warrant. Bail scams, in which scammers claim that a relative or close friend is in jail and in need of bail money, are becoming increasingly common. MPD also reminds residents that neither police nor the courts will ever request payment of bail money by gift card, bitcoin or wire transfer.
“One of the best ways to avoid falling victim to a scam is simply to slow down, take a deep breath, and consult with trusted friends, family members or police,” said McNamara. “Scammers often attempt to isolate and rush their victims, and a key to not falling for their tricks is avoiding their efforts to isolate and hurry you.”
Anyone who believes they may have been contacted by a scammer is encouraged to immediately slow down, think things through and contact Methuen police at (978) 983-8698.