The Melrose Police Department would like to warn of an increasingly common type of scam that uses impersonated email addresses and phone numbers in an attempt to trick businesses and consumers.

Melrose Police recently began investigating an incident in which a local business franchise received a call that appeared to be from the company’s corporate offices. The caller said they needed credit card information to ship some stock to the store, so an assistant manager provided their personal credit card information. That well-meaning individual lost $500 before realizing the call was a scam.

Such scams, which are known as “spoofing,” involve scammers using deliberately falsified phone numbers, email addresses or websites so they can appear to be from a legitimate source, possibly even within your own company.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center — which tracks online scams nationwide — spoofing scams victimized about 28,000 people nationwide in 2020, with victims reporting over $215 million in losses as a result.

Even the FBI has recently been spoofed, with some scammers impersonating federal agents in scams.

The FBI says that while phone numbers and email addresses may appear to be from authorities or people you know, the person or persons behind those messages could be anywhere in the world.

“These scammers rely upon their ability to impersonate someone you trust, whether it be your boss, a coworker, or even someone in your family or law enforcement,” Chief Lyle said. “They use these manipulations to trick people into downloading malicious software, sending money, or disclosing sensitive information.”

Spoofing scams are often closely connected to “phishing” scams, which use tricks to obtain sensitive personal information from individuals, with the information that is obtained then being used to conduct spoofing scams using the stolen information or credentials. Phishing scams are far more common, with about 240,000 people reporting being victims in 2020, at a cost of about $50 million.

“Spoofing scams are still less common than some other widespread scams, but spoofing has been shown to be particularly costly for those who fall victim to it,” Chief Lyle said. “I urge everyone to stay informed and take basic precautions to help foil such scams.”

The Melrose Police Department encourages all residents to follow these basic safety tips from the FBI:

  • Setup two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication on any account that allows it, and never disable it.
  • Verify all requested payments or transactions in person or via a known telephone number that you call.
  • Educate yourself and your employees about common scams and strategies for protecting yourself.
  • Remember that companies generally don’t contact you to ask for your username or password.
  • Remember that government agencies, and especially law enforcement, will not generally call or email you in pursuit of payments or other money that may be owed.
  • Don’t click on any links or attachments in an unsolicited email or text message. Look up the company or individual on your own, and contact the company to see if the request is legitimate.
  • Carefully examine the email address, web address, and spelling used in any messages. Scammers often use slight differences to trick your eye and gain your trust.
  • Use extra caution anytime someone is urging you to send a payment or transfer money quickly.
  • Be careful with what information you share online or on social media. Openly sharing things like pet names, schools you attended, and other personal information can enable scammers to access information they need to guess your passwords or answer your security questions.

The Melrose Police Department also encourages businesses to ensure their IT departments are familiar with the latest strategies for guarding against such scams. More information and tips from the FBI can be found by clicking here.

If you are victimized by a scammer and discover unauthorized payments from your accounts, contact your financial institution immediately to request a recall of the funds. Then report the attempted or fraudulent transfers to law enforcement.

If you are ever unsure about a potential scam, contact the Melrose Police Department at 781-665-1212.

For more information on spoofing and phishing scams, click here.

For more information on all the common scams being tracked by the FBI and IC3, click here.

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