Identity theft and scams are on the rise in the 111th Precinct and police are warning residents to stay vigilant.
At the April 2 Community Council meeting at the Bayside-based precinct, Captain John Hall reported that these and other grand larceny crimes had increased from 65 in 2018 to 93 in 2019. Thirty-four of the crimes were reported as identity theft.
“This is a problem that expands well beyond our precinct but that’s one of the things we’re facing right now,” Hall said.
The precinct captain said that the incidents occurred when people opened new credit card accounts or when scammers obtained a person’s credit card information and made purchases. A resident at the meeting said that she noticed suspicious activity on her Macy’s American Express credit card, which Hall confirmed was the second incident of its kind that day.
“Our detectives will be investigating that. When there is usage we do look for video and hopefully it will help us make inroads on this,” Hall said.
He told meeting attendees to report identity theft and credit card fraud to both the precinct and credit card companies, who would reimburse funds incurred as a result of fraud.
Hall added that both phone and internet scams had risen from this time last year. Residents reported 17 grand larceny scams this year versus nine at this time last year according to crime data.
“Everybody gets phone calls every day. I get a ton of phone calls every day [saying], ‘This is the Social Security Administration.’ Unfortunately, not everybody follows us on Twitter so they don’t necessarily know the scams they could fall prey to,” Hall said.
In addition to the social security scam, Hall said that scammers call individuals pretending to be the IRS or in other cases, a relative asking for bail money. He said that internet scams include “broken computer scams” where scammers require that people pay platforms like Facebook a certain amount of money to “unhack” an account.
“In no case, will you ever have to pay a government agency with Google Play cards or gift cards of any sort. Sometimes they ask people to wire money, which seems a little bit more legitimate than a Google Play gift card,” said Hall.
The captain advised those at the meeting to warn vulnerable populations, especially the elderly, about the various scams that exist.