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Last updated on Wednesday, July 31, 2013
(TIPPECANOE COUNTY) - A north-central Indiana law enforcement agency is getting the word out statewide on a new fraud tactic being used to steal Hoosier dollars.
Lafayette Police Department (LPD) Lt. John Withers said his department is beginning to see an increase in a particular tactic used to commit fraud. It involves the activation of money cards or phone cards that can be purchased locally.
Lt. Withers said in the ruse, a caller presents themselves as a utility representative demanding money in the form of a money card before the victim's power is shut off - or in one case, before their house possibly catches fire because of the immediate danger from a "defective electric meter" in the home.
Another tactic was reportedly used by a phone card company "representative" who called a convenience store and convinced an employee to activate and test the store's money cards because of a "reported problem" with the portrayed value of the cards.
Investigators said generally, the unknown caller has the victim read the code from the back of the activated card to verify they have the card. But once the caller has that information, the cash value of that card is usually depleted immediately.
Lt. Withers said there is no way to determine where these calls are coming from, but investigators believe the caller is sometimes using a "spoofing" technique in which they enter a phone number they want to appear on the victim's phone. It's usually a number that will be legitimate, such as an energy company's number.
Investigators said if you receive a phone call from someone pressuring you to get a money card or other related item, and then provide the caller with the code from the back of the card, call police.
Lt. Withers advises that, before hanging up with the caller, ask for their name, business information and location, and phone number. Then, rather than calling that phone number back, look up the given organization's number online, on a prior billing statement or in the phone book. If the information doesn't match, you should report the incident to police.
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