After a Batavia resident was scammed out of $1,000 Thursday, Batavia police are again warning people to be suspicious if somebody calls saying they are a police officer or government official, and you need to send money to them.
A resident of the 400 block of North College Street received a call from a "police officer" saying a relative was in jail in another state, and wanted to be bailed out. The caller instructed the resident to purchase Green Dot prepaid debit cards, then had the resident call back with the card numbers and their verification codes, so the caller could get the money.
"No police department or government is ever going to ask you to send money over the phone," Batavia Detective Kevin Bretz said.
The scammers rely on people's love of their relatives, their embarrassment, and their lack of knowledge, according to Bretz. "Most people don't deal with police in their everyday lives, so how would they know what the procedures are," for bailing people out of jail? he said.
In Batavia, bail bond payments have to be made in person because the person putting up the bail has to sign a surety agreement, he said.
The jail scam especially works on grandparents. They are typically told a grandchild is in jail in a far-off place. They may not be aware of the details of the grandchild's daily life, so it seems plausible the grandchild could have traveled there. And in general, seniors are targeted for fraud because of their assets, because they were raised to be polite and trusting, and would be ashamed to have anyone know they fell for a scam, according to the FBI.
Bretz said Batavia residents have also been getting calls in recent weeks from people purporting to be IRS agents, telling them that they owe back taxes and offering to arrange payments by phone. Some people have been threatened with audits.
To report an attempt of tax fraud, call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484.