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Ask NOW: What can residents do about phone scams?

The Brookfield Police Department has been fielding concerns about phone scams.

The Brookfield Police Department has been fielding concerns about phone scams.

March 19, 2014

CIs there a rumor you'd like tracked down? Rory Linnane answers some of the mysteries of life in Brookfield and helps solve everyday problems.

How do you know if you're being scammed, and what should you do about it?

Situation: The Brookfield Police Department has seen an uptick in residents reporting suspected phone scams, wondering how to tell for sure and what to do about it.

Response: Community Services Officer Denise Carroll said residents, especially senior citizens, have frequently been calling or coming into the police station to report being scammed for money by phone. Carroll had scads of tips to share.

Here are four common scams, and what to do about them.

The Grandkid

An especially common phone scam seen in the Brookfield area is known as the "grandparent scam."

Someone claiming to be a resident's grandchild calls and asks for money to be sent right away because of an emergency, such as being arrested and needing bail money.

Carroll said these calls can be especially convincing, because the caller may obtain personal family information from social media, obituaries or hacked emails. She encourages residents who get phone calls like this to hang up and verify the claim through other means.

The Charity Case

Around the holidays or after major disasters, scam artists may pose as fake charities.

Carroll recommends always checking to see if a charity is registered with the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing before donating.

The Amazing Offer

If someone makes you an unbelievable deal, there's a good chance you shouldn't believe it.

"It's important to be skeptical of any proposal that seems too good to be true or needs to be kept secret," Carroll said.

If you hear anything like, "You must decide now," "You must pay now," "Don't tell anyone," or "Just trust me," Carroll said it's time to be suspicious.

To start, ask for the company's name and address, and check the Better Business Bureau for any complaints — but keep in mind fraudulent companies often start and close quickly.

Resist sending payment by private courier, wire or overnight.

The Vulture

Some scammers look for people who already have been scammed once, and pose as an organization that can help victims recover their money.

In these cases, Carroll said, it's important to know: "Legitimate groups would never charge to investigate your case or recover your lost money."

In all cases, Carroll said, it's good to contact the Police Department so officers can learn more about what kind of scams are occurring and warn others to look out for them.

Submit your question for Ask NOW by sending an email to Rory Linnane at rlinnane@jrn.com.

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