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It's easier to stop fraud before it happens, so be especially vigilant

TREATWith the holiday season upon us, the Lake Oswego Police Department wants to remind you of the most prevalent scams we see in the city. Be on the lookout for these:

• IRS Scam: Someone calls from the IRS demanding money and usually asks for some type of wire transfer or gift card (Visa/AMEX). The caller will threaten you with arrest if you do not pay immediately. But the IRS does not call under any circumstances and would never threaten arrest, and the federal government does not accept gift cards or prepaid cards to satisfy a debt. The agency will correspond only through the U.S. Mail, because the IRS wants documentation — and phone calls do not fit in a file. Again: The IRS will never call you.

• Grandma or Grandpa Scam: Someone calls claiming to be a grandson or granddaughter. They are in a foreign country, usually Mexico, and have either been in a car crash — severely injured and now in the hospital — or they are in jail. All of the scenarios require $2,000-$5,000 to get them out of the situation they are in. They need money wired immediately through Western Union; they will even suggest you go to the Safeway on A Avenue to wire the money to them. If you get this call, hang up and verify the whereabouts of your grandchildren, because once money leaves the country, there is absolutely nothing the LOPD can do.

• Utility Scam: Someone calls claiming they are from PGE, Northwest Natural, Comcast, etc., and they demand money to keep your power, gas, cable, etc., from being turned off immediately. They usually want cash or gift cards (Visa/AMEX type) and will offer to meet you somewhere to collect, although not at your residence. But utility companies do not call unless you have received several shut off notices in the mail, and they certainly will not meet you somewhere to accept payment of your bill. Again, they want a paper trail for their files. After several notices from a utility company, it is possible that you could receive automated messages with a shut-off date and a phone number to call to resume service. When in doubt, call the utility company directly.

• Bank Email Scam: Someone sends you an email indicating that a payment or credit transaction is on hold and that the bank needs additional information from you. Remember: Your bank has your information and will never call you or email you and ask you to verify your information. If you initiate the call, the bank will ask you to verify your information so that they can confirm your identity. But do not email your personal information to anyone claiming to be a bank representative unless you have generated the contact.

• Prize/Help Scam: Often referred to as the “Nigerian scam,” this is an email claiming that you have won a prize and need to send money in order to receive it. But it is not a prize if you have to pay for part of it. In addition, there are many emails from people who claim to have millions of dollars that they want to get out of whatever country they are in, and they promise that the money is yours if you send them $5,000. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. And just as with the Grandma/Grandpa Scam, know that once your money leaves the U.S., there is nothing local law enforcement can do.

Please remember that the LOPD is here to answer any questions you may have about suspicious phone calls you receive, so always call us before you send any money. It is easier to stop fraud before it occurs.

If you have a specific request or see a violation occur, the Lake Oswego Police Department encourages all citizens to contact the non-emergency line at 503-635-0238 and an officer will be dispatched as soon as available.

— Lt. Doug Treat 

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