The Melrose Police Department would like to warn residents of an increasingly common type of scam known as spoofing, in which telephone numbers are impersonated.

On Monday, Jan. 24, a resident of Melrose notified city officials that they received a call from a number that came up in caller ID as Melrose City Hall, even though the call turned out to be about a medical alert system with no affiliation with the City of Melrose.

Additionally, the number the call was placed from — 781-978-4800 — is close to the actual main phone number for Melrose City Hall.

Scams that use impersonated telephone numbers and email addresses are known as spoofing scams, and employ the faked contact information in an effort to make it appear that scammers are from legitimate sources.

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.

“I would like to thank the resident who reported this incident to the city so that we could take action to warn people,” said Chief Lyle. “Scams have grown increasingly high tech in recent years, and we urge everyone to use caution and follow basic safety tips before giving out any kind of personal or financial information out over the telephone or email.”

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 scams, click here.

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

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