Police warn of phone scams after 80-year-old Rancho Cucamonga man loses $10,000

Local news

An 80-year-old Rancho Cucamonga man was swindled out of thousands of dollars after mistakenly calling a wrong number, spurring a warning on Wednesday from local police about phone scams.

The victim was seeking to cancel a Best Buy computer service subscription when he found what he thought to be the company’s number on the internet and dialed it, according to the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department.

He was told by a person posing as a Best Buy representative that in order to cancel the service, he’d have to purchase roughly $10,000 in Apple gift cards, according to a news release from the Police Department.

The man complied and bought the gift cards. Then he provided the numbers on the back of them to the fake Best Buy representative.

Eventually, the victim realized he had called a fraudulent phone number. But it was too late to stop the scam at that point because the gift cards had already been redeemed, according to the news release.

The man called law enforcement on Saturday to report the scam.

According to police, scammers “use many different scenarios” to defraud unsuspecting citizens.

“Suspects may call, falsely represent themselves, and threaten to take people to jail. They may say they are with the IRS and threaten the victim claiming they owe money or they may claim to be a utility company attempting to collect on a past due account,” the release explained.

The scenarios all generally have two things in common: the scammers try to impress upon the would-be victim that the situation must be handled immediately, and they will demand a payment in a non-monetary form, such as gift cards or cryptocurrency.

In raising awareness of such scams, police want people to know that legitimate businesses won’t seek to be paid through gift cards or cryptocurrency, and that law enforcement agencies will never call someone, use a threat or demand payment over the phone to fix any issues.

Another tip police provided to help citizens avoid becoming the victim of a phone scam: simply call the person back — but only use a phone number provided on a monthly statement or on company’s legitimate website. That’s because the phone number they provide could be part of the scam, police advise.

The Police Department’s warning follows a similar one from the IRS, which last week urged people to be cautious with unknown callers, texters and emailers amid a recent surge of reports in scams tied to federal stimulus checks.

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