Arlington Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy sent out an email this week warning residents and businesses that some have received scam letters requesting financial records and $125. From Morroy’s email:
“It has come to our attention that a mailing soliciting funds is being sent from an organization calling itself the Virginia Council for Corporations,” the email says. “This is a scam — there is no such council. Do not send money to the address provided on the mailing.”
The Virginia State Corporation Commission has sent out guidance that says the address for the fake council is identical to a similar scam from last winter, aimed at corporations from a company called the Corporate Records Service.
“A search of the Commission’s business entity records in the Clerk’s Office revealed no information about a company with the name Virginia Council for Corporations,” the SCC said. “The Solicitation Form looks somewhat like the annual report form prescribed by the State Corporation Commission and mailed to corporations of record in the Clerk’s Office of the SCC. Some corporations have confused the Solicitation Form for the Commission-prescribed annual report.”
Morroy encouraged anyone with questions or concerns to contact her office at 703-228-3060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The online fundraiser set up to help Bill and Sarah Barkes — the survivors of the fatal house fire from earlier this month — has reached more than $70,000 in donations, but at least one scam artist appears to be trying to profit from the family’s pain.
According to an update on the Barkes family’s GoFundMe page, a Craigslist post was made by someone posing as a relative of the family under the guise of “collecting money through Paypal.”
The GoFundMe page is maintained by Joy Chadwick, the sister of the mother who died in the blaze trying to save one of her daughters, Emily, who also died. Chadwick has been updating the nearly 1,000 people who have donated to the cause in the two weeks since the fire. Chadwick wrote yesterday that Sarah was released from the hospital after more than a week in intensive care.
“[Bill Barkes] said the doctors were very excited about how fast Sarah was healing and at the this time no surgery is needed,” Chadwick wrote last week. “He said she is working hard on her physical therapy. If she continues with this progress she might be able to leave the hospital by Saturday. She is excited that some of her teachers are coming to visit her today.”
Chadwick wrote the family still has “not decided where they will live.” The cat that was missing after the fire was found and is currently living with Chadwick’s other sister, according to the page.
Construction to Begin on Ballston Garage – Local developer The Shooshan Company says it is beginning construction on a 550-space parking garage at 4040 Wilson Blvd, site of a planned 20-story office building in Ballston. The building is the final component of Shooshan’s Liberty Center development. [Washington Business Journal]
Clarendon Day Date Set — The annual Clarendon Day street fair will be held on Saturday, Sept. 27, the Clarendon Alliance has announced. This year the event will add a bluegrass music stage next to the Clarendon Chili Cookoff. The layout is also being changed “to make it easier for people to find the cold beverages of their choice.” [Clarendon Alliance]
VDOT Warns of E-Z Pass Scam — VDOT says some Virginia E-Z Pass users have reported receiving emails demanding payment for a past due debt. The emails are a scam, the department says. It’s unclear how the scammer obtained the email addresses of E-Z Pass holders. [Reston Now]
New Arlington Book Released — “We Are Arlington,” a book featuring 180 pages of photos and history about Arlington and Arlington residents, is now on sale. The author is Bill Hamrock, co-owner of Pasha Cafe and Billy’s Cheesesteaks in Cherrydale. [Preservation Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
“So many people already got in trouble,” Shamim Naseer, who received one of these calls, told ARLnow.com. “One of my friends said he paid them $6,000.”
Naseer said that at least four people she knows, including her son, got a call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent. One of her friends, Naseer said, got a call six months ago. The caller in each case told them to add money to gift cards within 10 to 20 minutes or else they would “get in trouble.”
“Some people just don’t know what to do,” said Naseer, who runs an in-home child day care service called Sunshine Day Care in Arlington. The scam may seem obvious to long-time American citizens, but is less so to “recent immigrants who are still figuring out how the tax system operates in this country,” said Sara Barker, a daycare client of Naseer’s.
An identical scam robbed a South Florida woman of $6,000 earlier this month, and a March press release from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said that thousands of people were victims of similar scams.
When Naseer got her call Wednesday, she knew not to believe the scam artist because customers from her sons’ Halal grocery store on Lee Highway warned her after receiving calls of their own, she said. She kept him on the phone so she could report details of their call to the police and the IRS.
After giving her a fake name, phone number and IRS ID number, the man asked Naseer if she had a lawyer. “Tell me what I did wrong first and then I’ll tell you if I have a lawyer,” Naseer said she told the caller. He said that Naseer had unpaid debt and needed to go to the bank to withdraw “cash money.”
“If I hadn’t heard about these scams before then I would have believed him,” Naseer’s daughter Amania, who was with her mother when the call came, told ARLnow.com. “He was so professional and very thorough.”
The caller wanted Naseer to go to Home Depot after she withdrew the $3,000 and add the money to gift cards. “He said, ‘put the phone on speaker so I know you’re taking out the money,’” Naseer said.
“I said, ‘there’s no point in talking to him anymore because I’m not going to do this,’” Naseer said. After she hung up, the caller called back twice. Naseer reported the call to the IRS, who said they received six similar calls.
Amania Naseer said that she was scared because the caller knew her family’s address. The caller also told them he would come to their house after Naseer paid to complete the “paperwork.”
The scam artist who called Naseer’s son said he was from his electric company, and that he would turn off power in their store unless they paid their supposed “bill” in 10 minutes. Naseer did not know if the same caller targeted her son, but she said he gave him the same set of instructions.
One of the victims Naseer knows is a government employee, according to Naseer. “He told me, ‘I’m working for the government too, so I’m hoping my money comes back,’” Naseer said.
The press release advised victims of these scams to report them to the Treasury Department at 800-366-4484 , or to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and add “IRS Phone Scam” to the online form’s comments.
Flickr photo by Marie Coleman
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A prospective Arlington renter nearly fell victim to a scam posted on real estate website Zillow last week, according to one Clarendon rental broker.
Matthew Leighton, a Realtor with Century 21 Redwood Realty, said he received a phone call from a renter inquiring about a Zillow listing for a a $950-per-month, two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the Station Square building at 1201 N. Garfield Street. The supposed “owner” of the condominium told the hopeful renter that she had moved to England and needed the deposit wired to her.
“Two bedrooms could easily get $3,000 per month at Station Square,” Leighton told ARLnow.com. “I was pessimistic so I asked the renter to send me the email correspondence (the Zillow ad is long gone). The scammer’s emails are filled with grammatical errors and outlines the intricate steps to lease the condo. You could go through almost every paragraph and pick apart the details which poke huge loopholes in this person’s story. Yet people are still responding to these ads.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that being asked to wire money is the No. 1 sign that a rental scam is afoot. In the case of this scam, the victim was told to wire the deposit, after which a third-party shipping company would send them the key to view the apartment.
Leighton said the renter found him through a listing for another condo in the Station Square Complex and he “genuinely believed” he had gotten a good deal. The lister, however, didn’t provide a unit number, a full name or a phone number.
“Rental scams are out there and it can be difficult to decipher them from real listings,” Leighton said. “When in doubt, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
Leighton says rental scams are relatively rare on Zillow, which “is usually pretty good about deleting spam and scam listings.” More prevalent are rental scams on Craigslist, which have been the subject of coverage in national outlets like the Huffington Post.
Another potential Craigslist scam was just called out on the Washington, D.C. sub-Reddit. The alleged scam is an apartment listing that asks prospective tenants to undergo an online credit check — a process that would saddle the victim with monthly fees.
The FTC says that scams can come in the form of both fake ads or real ads where the contact info has been hacked and changed. Red flags include the lister being out of the country and requesting a third-party handle some details or money or asking for a fee or deposit before any documents have been signed. Scammers can be reported to the police or the FTC.
Photos via Google Maps (middle) and courtesy Matthew Leighton (top and bottom)
Police originally warned of the scam last month. It involves a caller claiming to be from the police department or Sheriff’s Office, demanding payment of a fine for failure to appear for jury duty. Police say the scammer threatens to arrest the victim unless they’re paid with Green Dot MoneyPak cards.
The Arlington County Police Department, along with Sheriff’s Office, are reminding residents of phone scams occurring across Arlington that involve a transaction using a Green Dot MoneyPak.
Recently, victims have received phone calls from an individual(s) claiming to be a Lieutenant with the Police Department or Sheriff’s Office and accusing them of failing to appear for jury duty. The subject claims a warrant for their arrest would be issued unless fines are paid immediately through MoneyPak cards. Additional claims of these scam artists have included falsely representing the Arlington County Police Department’s Warrant Services Division and even name current judicial officials during the conversation.
The Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office continue to urge residents upon receiving a call of this nature, to immediately hang up with the caller and verify the claim by calling the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office at 703.228.4460. Never use a phone number provided to you from the caller to verify their credibility. It is also important to note, that under no circumstance would an Arlington County Office require a financial payment via a MoneyPak card. This tactic only allows money to be transferred to an account without using identification.
After making a verification call, if you find that you were a victim of a scam or were a target, please file an online police report at http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/police/incident/new/start-report.html or call the non emergency police line at 703.558.2222.
The missed jury duty scam is just the latest approach these criminals are taking. Past scams have included individuals claiming to be from utility companies collecting for past due bills, tax collection agencies for unpaid taxes and lottery officials claiming residents have won money. You can assist law enforcement agencies by spreading the word about these scams so that neighbors and/or family members don’t become victims.
According to police, residents are getting a call from someone fraudulently claiming to be from the Arlington Sheriff’s Office.
The caller then demands the resident pay a “fine” for supposedly not appearing for jury duty.
From an ACPD press release:
At least three incidents were reported yesterday, February 24, 2014, where Arlington residents received a phone call from an individual claiming to be a Lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Office. Each time, the victim is accused of failing to appear for jury duty and a warrant for their arrest will be issued unless a fine is paid immediately via a moneypak card. The amount of the fictitious fine has ranged from $150-$350.
If you receive a call of this nature, immediately hang up with the caller and verify the claim by calling the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office at 703.228.4460. Never use a phone number provided to you from the caller to verify their credibility.
After making a verification call, if you find that you were a victim of a scam or were a target, please file an online police report athttp://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/police/incident/new/start-report.html or call the non emergency police line at 703.558.2222.
Scam artists have been calling Arlington residents, claiming to be utility bill collectors, according to police. They often become aggressive on the phone and demand payment for outstanding bills. The scammers have also threatened to cut off service altogether if immediate payment is not provided over the phone. They ask the victim to set up a pre-paid debit card so funds can be loaded onto it and accessed over the phone.
In the past, many utility scams police came across involved minority or elderly residents. This one, however, appears to target small businesses. Since the beginning of the year, police have investigated 21 instances of this scam in Arlington, nine of which occurred just in the past month.
The scammers have been requesting various amounts of money ranging from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand, police say. Although most of the victims refused to pay and contacted police, a few did hand over money.
Police remind residents never to provide personal information to people over the phone, including bank account numbers, credit card info and social security numbers. If you receive a call from someone claiming to work for a utility or another business, attempt to verify the individual’s identity by calling the service number on your utility bill or on the company’s website. Do not attempt to call phone numbers a caller may offer, because the number will often ring to another scam artist.
Do not rely on your caller I.D. to verify suspicious calls, because scammers can alter phone numbers to appear like they belong to a utility company. Legitimate utility companies will not attempt to pressure customers into making a snap decision or an immediate payment.
If you receive a call you believe is a scam, hang up and call the Arlington County Police non-emergency number at 703-228-2222 to file a police report.
If someone approaches you in the Ballston area, claiming to be in need of gas money, you might want to think twice before obliging. According to an ARLnow.com tipster, the man is perpetrating a scam.
The tipster said a man in Ballston came up to her and her husband earlier this year and said he needed gas money to visit his dying father. They handed over $20. This week, the same man — apparently not recognizing the couple from the earlier encounter — came up to them again and recited the same story.
Here’s what the tipster had to say, in an email sent Monday night:
Here is how the story went the first time he tried his trick on us:
My husband and I were walking back from dinner. We were in the courtyard by Grand Cru (4401 Wilson Blvd) when this man walked up to us. He was a tall (6’3″ or so) white male and was wearing a baseball cap. He said that he was looking for gas money to go visit his dad in Raleigh, N.C., who just had had a heart attack. He said he needed $60 for gas and needed to leave right away in case his dad was not going to make it. He offered to have us take a picture of his driver’s license and to take his phone number. He promised he would call us in a few days and reimburse us as soon as he could. He added that he lived at the old Avalon complex on Glebe. He sounded as genuine as could be. His story was convincing and we couldn’t help but feel bad for him. We gave him $20, all the cash we had on us. Of course, we never heard back from him and never got our money back. We then realized it probably was all a hoax.
Tonight, we know for sure it was a hoax… He started telling my husband the exact same story about his dad and how he needed gas money to go visit him. Almost verbatim. Since my husband didn’t want any trouble with a potential sociopath, he just told him he was sorry but didn’t have any cash on him. He had been going around each car at the gas station asking for money with the same story. I was burning inside but was too scared of saying anything.
The tipster’s description of the alleged scammer is different from the scooter scam artist in Rosslyn last year, who pretended to be out of gas and asked passersby for money.
The Arlington County Police Department is warning of a scam that’s targeting local residents.
Fraudsters are calling Arlington residents, claiming to be representatives of a utility company, and demanding money for supposed unpaid bills. From a police press release:
Since the beginning of March, over two dozen Arlington County residents have become victims of a utility scam. Victims in these cases have received phone calls from individuals posing as utility company employees. The caller states that the victim has failed to pay utility bills and has an outstanding balance, threatening to shut off the utility services if a payment is not made immediately. Arlington County cases alone have resulted in losses ranging from $200-$1,000.
If you receive a call of this nature, make sure to verify that it is actually your utility company. Residents can do this by directly calling the number on your latest bill or by finding the number on the utility company’s main website. Never use the phone number provided to you from the caller to verify their credibility.
After making a verification call, if you find that you were a victim of a scam or were a target, please file an online police report… or call the non emergency police line at 703.558.2222.
It’s a season for giving, but apparently some scam artists are instead using the opportunity for taking. The Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office is warning residents to watch out for holiday scams, particularly those involving false charities and phishing.
Some groups use names that sound similar to legitimate charities and pressure consumers for donations. They might also offer particularly touching stories in an attempt to garner sympathy and contributions. The AG’s office said many consumers who would typically notice the sketchy “charities” may be too busy or distracted by the holidays to pick up on the normal cues.
Phishing involves using deceptive emails or text messages to obtain usernames, passwords and financial information from a victim. Consumers might receive an email or text message from someone posing as a representative from a bank or retail establishment, saying the customer’s account has been restricted due to unusual activity or too many unsuccessful online login attempts. The scammer then requests bank account numbers, passwords and/or a social security number to reactivate the account.
Some consumers have received fraudulent text messages, emails or phone calls stating they won a gift card from reputable companies such as Target or Best Buy. Scammers might also say the consumer entered a contest at a store. Both of these tactics are used to bait consumers into providing personal information.
In all cases, consumers should avoid handing over sensitive personal information, and should never feel obligated to donate to a charity under pressure. Ask charity representatives who approach you for more information, and do your own research, the attorney general’s office advises. Check the charity’s website, along with resources such as the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance or the National Association of State Charity Officials.
If a charity is legitimate, it will accept your donation at any time and will not need to pressure for donations. Never give cash, and if using a check, make it out directly to the charity instead of an individual person. Do not use money transfer companies to send money to a person you haven’t met.
“My office is committed to helping consumers protect themselves from falling victim to fraud. When it comes to charity scams, especially around the holidays, it is best that people do lots of research and only give money to charities and businesses they can really trust,” said AG Cuccinelli in a statement. “It is our hope that all Virginians can enjoy a joyful and safe holiday season without being taken advantage of by scammers.”
You can file complaints regarding scams on the consumer protection section of the attorney general’s website.
A tipster says a man on a scooter has been attempting to scam Arlington residents.
The woman, who didn’t want her named used for this article, said the man (pictured, above) pulls off to the side of the road, pretends to be out of gas, and asks passersby for money. She said she informed police about the possible scammer, but wanted other local residents to be aware of him as well.
On Saturday, a friend told me that she saw a man on a scooter who was panicked and asking for gas money. This was in Rosslyn near Ft. Myer. She said he seemed legit, was middle-aged, and refused to use her phone when she offered. She ended up giving him cash. Half an hour ago, I was walking on Highland St. in Lyon Village and saw a man on a scooter pull up on the sidewalk, putz around with the mechanical parts (it sounded like it was sputtering), and then ask the next young woman who walked by for cash because he was out of gas. It appeared to be the same man. He is about 5’10″, white, reddish-blonde hair, middle-aged, and was wearing a maroon shirt, black pants, and white Adidas shoes. He was on a silver scooter. Just wanted to give a heads up… that this guy is a scammer (especially because he appears to be approaching young women in particular). Don’t fall for it.
The scam involves offering customers the opportunity to set up an account to pay utility bills via a federal program. According to the Better Business Bureau, there is no such federal program in existence to pay household bills.
Victims have reportedly been contacted in person as well as by phone, text and social media. They were asked to register their Social Security numbers and banking information in order set up an account to make payments. The account numbers the victims were then given for bill paying turned out to be fake.
So far, Dominion has notified around 60 customers that their payments could not be processed because the account information they gave was invalid thanks to the scam.
Anyone who is contacted about a federal government bill paying program should not give any personal information due to the risk of identity theft. Potential scam victims are encouraged to contact the Better Business Bureau and local police. Customers should ask for an official Dominion ID from anyone who may come to their residence and claim to be from the company.
The Better Business Bureau provides the following tips to avoid being scammed:
- Beware of giving personal information over the phone. Never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you initiated the contact and feel confident about the person with whom you are speaking.
- Use your own personal information. Always pay your bills with your own personal information; never pay your bills with information that is not your own.
- Do your research. If you receive a call claiming to be from your utility company and feel pressured for immediate payment or personal information, hang up the phone and call the customer service number on your utility bill.
- Beware of the door-to-door sales approach. Never allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or have reported a utility problem. Also, ask utility employees for proper identification.
- Be proactive. If you have already provided information to someone claiming to offer this service, contact your bank immediately. Also contact the three national credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – and have a notation made on your account so it doesn’t impact your credit rating.
- Inform others. Share this information with friends and family so they do not become victims. Elderly victims are common in this type of scam, but anyone who pays a utility bill is a potential target.
Two members of the Arlington County Police Department were recognized for their investigative prowess at a luncheon hosted by Arlington County Crime Solvers yesterday. Officer James O’Daniel and Detective Christine Everest both received the Detective of the Year Award for their efforts to end fraud and scams targeting the elderly.
One police official said the pair’s efforts were part of the department’s “War on Woodchucks” — a reference to the name sometimes given to scam artists who prey on senior citizens by performing unnecessary yard work and charging exorbitant amounts of money for it. Some of the offenders repeatedly target the same victims, or inform other scam artists of who to target. It’s not unusual for some of the victims to lose tens of thousands of dollars during interactions with woodchucks.
Even after being asked about winning the award, Everest turned the attention back to helping the elderly. She encouraged people to watch out for their neighbors and to call the police if they notice something suspicious. She added that there’s still a long road ahead in the fight to end these kinds of crimes in Arlington, and she’d like to see tougher laws put in place to bring the scam artists to justice.
“We’re both appreciative that the focus of today was on crimes against the elderly,” Everest said. “It’s out there and it’s unfortunate, and these are not small amounts that we’re talking about. You can have one individual who can have upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars being taken from them from scams. A lot of times these individuals come in contract with a dozen or more people who are scamming them for this money.”
“As a sidenote, I guess we’re getting a little bit of a tribute ourselves,” Everest added. “We were not expecting anything like this. The recognition is overwhelming.”
Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck explained that in addition to their usual work, Everest and O’Daniel created informational brochures to help people identify if they’d been victimized, and to let victims know where to go for help.
“It’s important to note that both of these individuals didn’t just do the minimal amount required. They went above and beyond their typical day-to-day work on the streets,” said Sternbeck. “From the chief level down, we’re very proud to have them represent us.”
Some of Everest’s notable contributions include displaying compassion and establishing a rapport with victims, researching suspects and conducting surveillance in areas known for being targeted.
One of O’Daniel’s major accomplishments was performing traffic stops after observing questionable solicitation practices by known scam artists, which led to additional violations such as identity theft. He also exhibited proactive enforcement by speaking with residents who were having repair or yard work done.
The luncheon, which raised money that will support Arlington County Crime Solvers, was attended by a number of local officials and lawmakers, including County Board member Walter Tejada, Police Chief Douglas Scott, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, Del. Bob Brink, Del. Patrick Hope, Del. Alfonso Lopez and state Sen. Adam Ebbin. Lopez said this year’s awards will help highlight the problem of scams against the elderly, which often don’t receive as much attention as better-publicized crimes like robberies and burglaries.
“The two people who won the award today are doing critical work to try to protect elderly [residents] who are being scammed by folks coming to their houses,” Lopez said. “This is a scam that’s happening far too often, and it’s hurting the elderly and immigrant populations more than others.
Lopez added that Everest and O’Daniel’s effectiveness in investigating such crimes is “a testament to how good our community policing efforts are in Arlington.”
We’ve heard via email and Twitter that there’s a new door-to-door scam making its way around Arlington.
The sellers claim to be helping out “inner city kids,” perhaps by asking you to purchase books, according to tipsters. They also might mention something about “motivational speaking.” In the end, they ask for a large sum of money.
At least one resident called police after a visit by the salesmen. No word on which company or organization they claim to represent.