Scammers are impersonating police to steal money from would-be victims, Santa Clara investigators warn

Police in Santa Clara were warning residents of a sophisticated scam, in which criminals impersonate police officials over the phone to steal people's money.

Investigators said they’re continuing to receive reports of scammers using this tactic. 

"In some cases, scammers will spoof the exact number of a public safety department to disguise their identity and attempt to extort money from people," the Santa Clara Police Department said on social media on Monday. 

Authorities reminded residents that police would never ask for payment or money over the phone. They urged anyone who receives such a call to hang up immediately and directly report the incident to Santa Clara PD at 408-615-4700.

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On Tuesday, the Washington, D.C.-based Financial Technology Association (FTA) kicked off a campaign to help consumers protect themselves from fraudulent activities, which experts said increased this time of year.   

"From texts to social media posts, scammers are looking to take advantage of shoppers during the busy holiday season," the finance and technology trade association said, adding that three-quarters of U.S. consumers will encounter at least one type of fraud during the holidays.

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Some commonly used scams involve getting people to pay a deposit for a highly sought pet that the thieves will never deliver, soliciting donations for a fake charity, and persuading victims to purchase and hand over gift card and pin numbers to steal the value of the card. 

As part of its "Smarter Than Scams" campaign, FTA detailed steps people can take to avoid becoming a victim: 

  • Protect your personal information: Never share your personal information, social security number, or login information with anyone, and keep any sign-in codes or magic links private.
  • Be aware of account activity: Turn on and use account notifications, such as two-factor authentication and alerts for new device logins.
  • Pause before you pay: Only send money to people you know and trust. Verify and double-check all recipient information.

For more information and tips on ways for consumers to protect themselves from scams, click here.