The Fairhope Police Department is warning residents about complaints it has received concerning fraudulent phone calls and a caller identification spoofing scam.
According to Fairhope Police, the department has received numerous reports from residents who have received fraudulent calls which appear to originate from the City of Fairhope, the Fairhope Police Department and various utility and power companies based in Alabama. The callers identify themselves as employees of those entities, then attempt to gather personal information and credit card numbers in an attempt to receive payment for an outstanding debt or late utility payment.
Traditional caller ID allows the recipient of a phone call to identify the phone number of the person or business calling them, and depending on available options, may display the name of the person or business associated with that phone number. However, a “spoofed” Caller ID allows a person placing a call to change the displayed phone number and name that appears on the recipient’s caller ID screen.
One Fairhope resident was the victim of fraud, and had unknowingly authorized a credit card payment to a non-existent debt collection company. When the victim realized their error, they stopped payment. Shortly thereafter, they received a phone call in which their caller ID screen identified the caller as the Fairhope Police Department, including the agency’s real phone number. The caller tried to coerce the victim into re-sending the payment.
Other residents have received calls in which their caller ID screen shows that the caller is the City of Fairhope or another legitimate utility service provider. The callers then explain that their utility account has a past due balance, and to avoid utility cut-off they must make a credit card payment over the phone.
Fairhope Police caution residents not to reveal personal information to any caller.
The City of Fairhope does not call utility customers to obtain payments. If a utility account is past due, a representative from the utility department will physically go to that address and inform the customer or leave a notice informing the customer of the account status, or the city will mail a notice.
The Fairhope Police Department will not call any citizens in an attempt to enforce bill payment.
If anyone receives a call, regardless of the information displayed on the caller ID screen, and the caller claims to represent a company and solicits personal information or credit card information, the recipient should hang up.
The department stresses that if a resident is concerned about the status of an account, they should call the company by using the phone number listed on the bill or the number provided at the company’s web site.
More information, including the ability to file a complaint, is available at the Federal Communications Commission website.
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