With Thefts Occurring on the Phone or Online, Here’s What the WeHo Sheriff’s Station Recommends You Do

Most people, when they think of theft, imagine a car break-in or someone breaking in the door of a house or apartment.  But these days, West Hollywood residents are more vulnerable to thefts that take place over the telephone or online.

For that reason, Capt. Edward Ramirez and the Detective Bureau team at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s station have provided information about how to deal with the types of fraud cases reported by our residents.

In all of the cases they have reported on, those West Hollywood residents could have avoided suffering a financial loss by following a couple steps.  Consider this:

• Are you being asked by someone on the phone to pay someone through unusual means? Companies usually do not ask for payment via gift cards.

• Are you being asked by someone on the phone to pay for something by wire transfer? Have you searched online for the company’s phone number and called them yourself to confirm payment information?

• Have you been told by someone on the phone you’ve won an award, but you have to pay the taxes for it before you can receive your winnings? (This is a scam that’s been around for a long time.) Search for the rewarding agency’s telephone number and call them to verify your winnings.

• Is someone from a policing or court agency asking for payment over the phone to clear up a law enforcement matter? Search for the agency’s telephone number and call to verify.

• Are you tempted to lease an apartment online without seeing the leasing agent in person or obtaining a signed lease?

By taking an extra minute to think through these situations, you can avoid the risk of financial loss.

Here are more detailed descriptions of the scams and what you can do to avoid them:

Gift Card Scams

How the scam works: A West Hollywood resident receives a phone call from a well-known non-profit charity. After explaining the good work of the charity, the caller requests a donation be made in the form of gift cards. The West Hollywood resident purchased the gift cards and then called the non-profit imposter to provide the gift card numbers. The scammer was able to cash in the gift cards, and our resident’s hard earned money was gone. All $500 of it.

How to avoid the scam: Giving to charity is worthy. Just make sure you are making your donation to the correct recipient. Search for the charity online and either make your donation via their secure web site or send a check to the address stated on the website. A legitimate charity would not insist on payment via gift cards.

Also, if you have any question about if the caller is authentic, hang up the phone. Search online for a local telephone number, and call the charity back.

You can learn more online.

Lottery Scams

How the scam works: A West Hollywood resident receives a phone call from the lottery with great news – our resident won the lottery! However to obtain the lucky winnings, the resident needs to send a check to pre-pay the taxes due. As you might guess, once our resident sends the funds (probably via wire transfer), the scammer is long gone along with the resident’s money. All $4,000 of it.

A variation of this scam is the West Hollywood resident receives a letter claiming he or she has  won a lottery prize. This is just an attempt to obtain non-public personal information.

How to avoid the scam: Legitimate state lottery organizations don’t call winners to give away the money. (And do you even remember playing the Russian Lottery?) The California State Lottery has a Security & Law Enforcement toll free number to call if you receive a questionable call or letter: 800-LOTTERY.

You can learn more online.

Apartment Rental Scams

How the scam works: Someone hoping to move to West Hollywood from parts unknown finds a suitable apartment on Craigslist or other online service. The price is right and the photos show a great place to live. The prospective resident makes all the arrangements online, even wire transfers the money – how convenient! Unfortunately, when the new resident shows up to move in, there’s someone already living at the residence who knows nothing about the fake ad. And to add insult to injury, the security deposit, first month’s rent and last month’s rent is long gone. All $8,500 of it.

How to avoid the scam: These days a lot of financial transactions can be done virtually, but most times with big-ticket items like leases, there’s value in actually visiting the apartment, meeting the property representative, and obtaining a lease in writing.

You can learn more online.

Arrest Warrant Scams

How the scam works: A West Hollywood resident answers the phone to learn from a law enforcement or court officer that an arrest warrant has been issued. It can be resolved easily as long as a payment is made. The scammer even suggests if you refuse to pay, law enforcement officers will be sent over to send you to jail! Of course, it’s all part of the scam.

How to avoid the scam: Policing agencies don’t call those with warrants in order to settle the matter. (That’s not how it works.) If you receive a call of this type, hang up the phone. (If you have never been arrested, this not be an issue.) Search online and obtain the telephone number for the closest courthouse. The courthouse personnel are able to verify if a warrant exists.

You can learn more online.

IRS Payment Due Scams

How the scam works: A West Hollywood resident receives a phone call from an IRS Agent to advise the resident owes money to the IRS that has to be paid immediately. The IRS Agent on the phone provides his name and Agent ID as well to validate his claim. The imposter requests payment via prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. All $3,500 of it, and it’s gone.

How to avoid the scam: The IRS sends letters that contain agent names and contact telephone numbers to advise of taxes due. After more than one attempt to contact taxpayers via letter is unsuccessful, the IRS may make a telephone call. Taxpayers may go to the IRS website to obtain information on how to make a payment.

You can learn more online.  


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Awesome Weho
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Awesome Weho

Here’s another VERY common West Hollywood scam: Sixteen cars are broken into in one week in West Hollywood. Every previous week had a similar number of thefts. Capt. Ramirez and the Detective Bureau of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s station make zero arrests, and do nothing to catch the car theft ring in any sort of sting operation. Instead, they offer self-help tips that are readily available on the internet for phone scams that don’t affect West Hollywood anymore than Seattle or St.Louis, and require no actual police work. But it does have the “feeling” they’re being pro-active and helpful, while… Read more »

Michael G.
Guest
Michael G.

I handle these calls, if I take them, by telling the caller they’ve reached President Trump’s office and they hang up right away.

The robo call folks pick numbers similar to yours so you think it’s a friends, etc.

Fortuntely my first there numbers are 666…. Therefore, I never answer it since I’m the only one I know with Sign of the Beast as my first 3 numbers.