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Law enforcement sees rise in scam reports

AMSTERDAM — Local law enforcement agencies have had a spike in scam calls since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Amsterdam Police Department have reported that residents have been called by a company promising to give all the supplies needed to survive quarantine as well as shortages at no cost. The caller then asks for credit card information.

“It’s very unfortunate. People will take advantage of any emergency or any situation to try to scam others out of money,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Smith.

Smith said people are calling and offering to send supplies to keep others safe and clean, along with personal protection equipment for COVID-19. They will ask for credit card information then using that information to buy things they’re not authorized to buy.

He said there have been several other of different kinds of scams, including one that says a person’s grandchild is in jail in a foreign country and need bail money, one that says the IRS is going to arrest a person if they don’t send money and many other phone scams.

Amsterdam Police Chief Greg Culick said the department received a lot of calls on Thursday of people asking for social security numbers to try to get medical information.

“We’re getting all kinds of different things where they’re trying to expose and trying to take advantage of the coronavirus scare,” Culick said. “This is really ramping up the criminal element too to try to take advantage of this situation. It’s pretty disconcerting the amount of people taking advantage of a really horrible situation.”

When getting one of these scam phone calls, both Smith and Culick advises no one give out any personal information including social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank information or date of birth over the phone, especially if it is to someone unknown.

Smith said people should know the company they may be dealing with. Make sure it is a legitimate company.

He said hang up and try to call them back.

“Call your local law enforcement agency and ask for their advice,” Smith said. “Ask if they’ve had any dealings or experience with the company.”

Culick also said to hang up and try calling the number back to see if it is a legitimate phone number. In most cases, the number is coded or the scammer is using a foreign number.

“We’re seeing a small explosion of it lately,” Culick said. “If anyone has a question or concern, we have double manning on the desk. We have extra desk officers now with this limited contact situation in our public that a lot of things are being handled by phone, and we appreciate anyone calling us with any question and we’ll walk them through it.”

Smith said the sheriff’s department is trying to keep everyone educated especially the senior population who are victimized the most by scam callers.

“So we ask family members to make sure they continually repeat this message to their grandparents, their aunt and uncles, and people who need help or advice,” Smith said. “Look out after them. Encourage them to contact family and ask for advice before they do this stuff.”

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