Police warn of phone scams, recommend safeguards

September 23, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The State College Police Department and Penn State University Police are warning consumers about a re-emerging “IRS scam” and additional phone scams prevalent in recent weeks.

The IRS scam described has been reported in the State College area by both non-student and student residents. Victims are also reporting “law enforcement” calling and advising they have an arrest warrant out for their arrest or a loved one has been arrested and must provide pre-paid credit cards over the phone to pay fines or bail. Reports have also been received of “Caller ID spoofing” being used in conjunction with these scams. “Caller ID spoofing” means a scammer can deliberately falsify the telephone number and/or name relayed as the Caller ID information to disguise the identity of the calling party. For example, identity thieves who want to collect sensitive information such as your bank account or other financial account numbers, your Social Security number, your date of birth or your mother’s maiden name, will sometimes use caller ID spoofing to make it appear as though they are calling from your bank, credit card company or even a government agency to include law enforcement to appear legitimate so you will provide the requested information. Recently, police at University Park have received reports of the callers spoofing University telephone numbers, as well as local numbers, seeking personal information allegedly on behalf of those offices.  

The University Police recommend that the campus community follow Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s steps to avoid becoming a victim of phone scams:

-- Never give out sensitive personal or financial information over the phone, especially if you receive an unsolicited telephone call from a stranger.

-- Never wire money or purchase green dot-type prepaid cash cards in response to a telephone appeal, whether it is from a stranger or someone who claims to know you or an organization you may be familiar with.

-- Never let emotion or fear overcome your common sense. If you get a call from someone claiming to be a government agency or law enforcement, slow down and verify everything. Don't let anyone rush you. You can always hang up and call the agency directly to verify.

-- Never give out sensitive information to anyone on the phone unless you initiated the call to a company or agency that you are certain is legitimate.

Kane reminded consumers that they should remain calm and verify their tax status directly with the IRS by calling 800-829-1040. The IRS recently re-issued its own alert regarding the scam.

According to the IRS, the agency will never:

-- Call taxpayers about taxes they owe without first sending an official notice by mail.

-- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount allegedly owed.

-- Require taxpayers to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

-- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

-- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

For more information or to report any scam, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555 or your local police department.

Last Updated September 24, 2014