WESTPORT, Conn. — With the holiday season approaching, the Westport Police Department is warning residents — particularly elderly residents — to be mindful of scams.
Westport and surrounding communities have recently been affected by a number of scams, many of which have targeted the elderly. One common scam involves a suspect who approaches an elderly resident at their home or in a parking lot and quotes them a bargain price for a service that is otherwise expensive, Sgt. Jillian Cabana says. Examples of services offered include dent pulling, chimney sweeping or driveway paving.
“After partially completing the service, the suspects may request additional money from the victim to complete the work,” says Cabana. “Many times, these cons use shoddy materials and unskilled workers and may end up causing more damage than they were supposed to repair.”
Residents can protect themselves from this con by making sure the company is registered with the state Department of Consumer Protection. This can be done by checking the state’s electronic licensing website to see if the business holds a current home improvement contractor’s license.
Utility company scams are another popular con. These cases commonly involve two people who arrive at a home and represent themselves as employees of a local utility company in order to gain access inside the home. Often times, one suspect distracts the homeowner by asking to be shown to the basement or another part of the home to check on something, allowing the second suspect to enter the home and steal items — usually jewelry, small electronics or cash.
“If you did not call the utility company and request for them to come to your home for service, you can deny them entry and call the police,” says Cabana. “Officers will be dispatched and can attempt to locate the person and determine whether or not they are in fact employed by the utility company. You can also contact your utility company and attempt to confirm.”
Residents should also be aware of lottery/sweepstakes scams. These scams commonly involve emails or phone calls to victims advising them that they have won the lottery or a sweepstakes, Cabana says. The caller or mailer tells the victim they will receive their prize money only after first paying the taxes and processing fees up front.
The suspects request payment for the taxes either by a wire transfer or via a prepaid credit card. The caller may even say that sweepstakes officials are in town to deliver the check.
“If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” says Cabana.
Another common scam involves an elderly person receiving a phone call from someone pretending to be a grandchild claiming to be under arrest, often in Canada, Cabana says. The suspect will then say they need bail money wired to a particular account. They may also request the bail payment be made using a prepaid credit card, she says.
Social Security scams are also common, Cabana says. These cases involve receiving a call from someone claiming to be from the Social Security office looking to update your information or reevaluate your status. These callers often request your name, date of birth, address, Social Security number and other personal identifying information, which could lead to identity theft.
“Never give a caller your credit card, Social Security number, or bank account numbers over the phone,” Cabana says.
“If you have any doubts about what is being offered, request that they mail you information about the company or organization. If the caller claims to be from your credit card company, hang up and then call the toll free number located on the back of your credit card.”
For more information about scam and identity theft protection, residents can visit the website of the state Attorney General's Office. More information is also available on the Department of Consumer Protection website.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.