Officials warn of increase in scams

MERRIMACK – Police in Merrimack are warning residents about an increase in scams reported in town.

A similar surge happened in the springtime, according to police, and since, officers have been fielding more calls, including from some folks who have lost money.

Police said in a statement that scammers are using mostly the phone and Internet to conduct the fraud, but also print advertisements, online social networks and online postings for employment.

Some of the scammers are persuasive and convincing as they attempt to pull off elaborate scams by sending would-be victims realistic-looking checks, police said. The cases can be difficult to investigate because funds are moved out of state or even the country.

The department listed several common scams to watch out for:

When people post items for sale, scammers will offer to buy the goods, sending a check or money order for much higher than the price to cover shipping and other hassles. Then scammers will ask that the additional funds be wire transferred or sent back by money order. Victims deposit the scammer’s check or money order and wire the excess funds. Later, they are told the scammer’s original check or money order was fraudulent or stolen.

A person applies for job online – apparently with a mystery shopper service – and is presented with a check that is explained as being his or her salary and expense account. He or she is then asked to deposit the check into her personal account, using some of the money to buy a small item at a retail store to evaluate the store’s customer service. In turn, scammers will instruct the victim to wire a large portion of the money back to them under the guise of evaluating the wire service agency’s customer-care abilities. Ultimately, the original check will be found to be fraudulent and the victim held liable for the funds.

Scammers will establish connections with intended victims online and spend time developing a “relationship.” They gain victims’ trust, often by sending alleged photographs of themselves. Eventually, the scammer will spin a “tale of woe and desperation” and ask for financial help in a scheme to cover travel to meet the victim or for an investment.

Scammers contact people by phone or via e-mail to announce they are winners of a substantial lottery. Scammers will ask for personal information or fees to pay for alleged taxes or fees associated with the winnings. Sometimes scammers will also use personal information in identify-theft schemes.

Police recommend that people ask plenty of questions, look for inconsistencies, ask for call-back numbers, and check if a caller’s business is registered with the attorney general’s office or the Better Business Bureau.

Other tips include avoiding requests for immediate response, documenting and retaining as much information about a suspected scammer as possible and calling police promptly with the information.

The Merrimack Police Department can be reached at 424-3774.