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UPDATED Sept. 5: Phone scams recently have become a thing, and not in a good way.

Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty and Arlington Health and Human Services Director Christine Bongiorno, plus county and state leaders, increasingly are warning residents following multiple reports of recent and varied phone scams attempting to steal money, identities or both.

 Town and county residents are far from the only possible targets of such tactics. In The Boston Globe on Sunday, Sept. 3, an editorial is calling for stronger measures throughout Massachusetts. This is advocated by Secretary of State Bill Galvin and some legislators to protect potentially vulnerable people, especially those deemed at heightened risk for "the grandparent scam" and other dirty telephone tricks. Similar efforts to protect the public already have been adopted in states as politically unalike as Connecticut and Georgia, the editorial notes.

And in a Sept. 5 news release, the Middlesex County Sheriff's office (MSO) said that some residents have recently reported calls or messages from individuals falsely claiming to be members of the MSO -- sometimes even posing under the names of real MSO officers and telling people to report to an actual MSO address to solve the "problem."

In each case, scammers falsely claimed that there were warrants or fines for unresolved citations or for failing to appear for jury duty. Over Labor Day weekend, a caller falsely told someone that the FBI had a warrant for their arrest. Such scammers have demanded hundreds or even thousands of dollars to clear up the nonexistent infractions; some have sought this payment using pre-paid cards.  Fortunately, none of those who recently notified the MSO had reported losing any money.

Legitimate law enforcement personnel will never threaten arrest over the telephone nor demand a fine/fee be paid using a gift card, pre-paid card or cryptocurrency, the MSO statement emphasized. Rather, these are tell-tale signs of a scam -- and any residents who receive such calls should hang up and report the incident to local authorities or to the MSO at 978-667-1711 and ask to speak with the Inner Perimeter Security (IPS) Unit. To learn more about protecting oneself from scams, go to www.middlesexsheriff.org/arrestscams.

In a joint news release late last month, in Arlington, Flaherty and Bongiorno said that a local senior citizen recently told town police about having received a suspicious call from someone posing as a representative of the Arlington Department of Health and Human Services -- and seeking personal information, including a Social Security number.

Officials have also recently received reports of scams in which the caller is "spoofing" the police department's business line and asking for financial donations. Spoofing is when people intentionally change the phone number that appears on a person’s caller ID to appear to be something other than their own actual phone number.

The town therefore is urgently reminding residents that they should never give any personal information, Social Security numbers or credit card/debit card numbers to people who call them unsolicited --  at home, at work or even on their personal cellphones.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers the following tips to help people avoid scams:

  • If you get an inquiry from someone who claims to represent a company or a government agency, immediately hang up -- and then call the number listed on the company's or agency's website to verify the authenticity of the call. Report to law enforcement anyone falsely claiming to be a government worker.
  • Monitor incoming calls. Do not pick up when receiving calls from unknown numbers, or random calls. If a call is legitimate/important, the caller will leave a message.
  • Know that even “local” numbers on caller ID may not really be from a local caller. If you answer the phone and then the caller -- or even a recording -- asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, immediately hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to any questions from strangers -- especially those that can be answered with "Yes" or "No."
  • Never give out personal data such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden name, passwords or other identifying information to unexpected callers, to strangers or if you are at all suspicious for any reason.
  • Use great caution if you are being pressured for any information.

Arlingtonians with questions about how to protect themselves or who believe that they may already have accidentally fallen victim to a scam are asked to call the APD at 781-643-1212.

March 9, 2022: Police share tips, info after uptick in scams

This news announcement was published Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, based on a joint news release sent by John Guilfoil Public Relations on behalf of the Arlington Police Department and the Town Department of Health and Human Services. It was updated Sept. 3, with a link to an editorial from The Boston Globe supporting a plan to protect people in their 60s or older from criminals. It was updated Sept. 5, with a warning about a recent phone scam in which crooks call residents pretending to be from the Middlesex Sheriff's Office -- and demand money to clear up nonexistent charges.