Phone Scams on the Rise, What to Watch For

According to Clovis PD, there has been a rise in phone scam victims in recent months. (CR photo)

The number of people falling victim to phone scams is on the rise and the Clovis Police Department is warning residents to be alert. 

“We’ve seen an uptake in the last few months,” said Detective Drew Mosher, a 20 year veteran with the police department. “I think we can have more success preventing phone scams, then solving them.” 

Detectives call one of the most common scams the “Grandparents Scam.” This happens when someone calls and says your grandchild is in trouble and needs you to send money right away. 

A 91-year-old Clovis woman was recently a victim of a version of this scam and it cost her $71,000. 

“If I’m going to do a phone scam, I can call anyone in the World,” Mosher said.

 The calls can be coming from inside or outside of the United States. A lot of times the scammers are using fake phone numbers, that look like they are coming from your own area code, but really the call is being placed in countries like Nigeria, Russia or Jamaica. 

This makes it hard for local police to solve the crime because they have to rely on agencies outside their jurisdiction to help them crack the case. 

Other popular phone scams involve people posing as the IRS or Social Security Administration. The scammers often demand money to keep you out of jail.

Most often the people that fall for these scams are seniors, 70 and over. However, the Clovis Police Department had a recent case where a 37-year-old was scammed.

“Often times the people being scammed are isolated,” Mosher said. “These are people out there who don’t have enough interaction to know these scams exist.”

The phone scams are sophisticated. The criminals often get the phone number through a data breach. Currently the City of Clovis is seeing a couple cases per week, but detectives believe phone scams often go unreported because people are embarrassed that they were fouled and seniors are worried about losing their independence if their family finds out.

There are steps residents can take to prevent getting scammed. If you receive a phone call from someone you don’t know, be suspicious. Anytime some is threatening arrest, asking you to wire money, send cash, convert money into cryptocurrency or pay them in gift cards, it is a scam. You should also never be told that you’ve won a prize, but need to send money to receive it.

“That kind of pressure is indicative of a scam,” Mosher said. “If someone calls you and asks for personal information, I would not give it out.”

The Clovis Police Department says it is important to talk to seniors early and frequently about these types of scams.

“Talk to them, talk to them, talk to them,” Mosher said. “There’s a certain population that’s being missed.”

Tell the senior to ask for the name, agency and phone number of the person calling. If they don’t give it, then you know it’s a scam. If they do give it, they can call back after talking to a family member or the police department for clarification.

There are call blocking Apps available for cell phone users. For example, AT&T customers can download AT&T Protect and it will help block scam phone calls.

Residents can also screen their calls. Scammers don’t usually leave a message. 

Detective Mosher says he’d like to see banks take a more active role in preventing these types of crimes. Bank tellers should be alert and not afraid to call the police if they see someone coming in and withdrawing a large sum of money. A lot of times police say the victim is actually on the phone with the scammer while they are withdrawing cash.

“The banks should be offering some training,” Mosher said. “If you think a crime is in progress, it’s ok to call the police.”

As part of an awareness campaign the Clovis Police Department is training a volunteer that will be going out to senior centers and mobile home parks to help educate residents on what to be on the lookout for when it comes to phone scams.

Detective Mosher says he can also come out to talk to groups of 20 or more. You can reach him at 559-324-2400.

The Federal Trade Commission also offers free literature that can help educate the public about scams. It can be ordered for free at BulkOrder.FTC.GOV

Sarah Soghomonian is an Emmy Award winning journalist who has been telling the stories of the unique people and places of the Central Valley for nearly 15 years. She's a graduate of Fresno State's Mass Communications and Journalism Department and has worked at CBS47 and ValleyPBS. In addition to her work as a television producer, Sarah is a freelance journalist who's articles have appeared in many local newspapers and publications. A lifelong Valley resident, Sarah loves her community and wants to do her part to make it a better place. Facebook link: