SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

May 2, 2014

Fake officer cons woman

WENHAM — Police are urging residents to beware of a phone scam in which a man pretends to be an officer in the Wenham Police Department.

Chief Tom Perkins said the scammer identifies himself as a fictitious officer, Steven Parker, and asks for bail money for a relative who was just arrested. Victims are told to make payment by purchasing prepaid money cards at a local store.

Perkins said his department became aware of the scam, interestingly enough, from a victim on the South Shore. An elderly Hingham woman called Wenham police after she was conned out of $4,000.

The woman told police she was talked into purchasing prepaid money cards and then reading those card numbers over the phone to a man pretending to be Officer Parker. Perkins said there is no such officer.

The caller told the woman her son had been arrested and she needed to buy $2,000 in Green Dot cards to post bail, plus an additional $2,000 in cards to cover court costs. She did as instructed.

“This is a sad and unfortunate situation that involves taking advantage of the elderly, fraud and impersonation of police,” Perkins said. “We are working closely with our partner law enforcement agencies, and we will aggressively pursue those responsible.”

He said both departments are investigating the incident, and anyone with any information should call Wenham police at 978-468-4000 or Hingham police at 781-749-1212.

Perkins said police officers do not administer court costs or set bail amounts, so they never demand payment over the phone for anyone who has been arrested or to cover court fees.

“When you give someone a prepaid credit card, it’s as good as giving them cash,” the chief said. “Prepaid cards also do not have the same fraud protection fail-safes as bank credit and debit cards.

“Never give out personal information to a stranger over the phone — including your full name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, bank account numbers or credit card information,” he said.

When in doubt, he said, just hang up and call 911.

You can reach John Castelluccio at 978-338-2527, jcastelluccio@salemnews.com or via Twitter at @SNjcastelluccio.

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