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Phone and Internet Scam Information

The Dover Police Department is issuing a warning about recent phone scams that several citizens have reported to us.  Often times, these calls are from overseas, primarily Africa, despite the caller using a local or United States phone number.  Because they are overseas, there is little that can be done for victims who send money to the people running these scams.  The best thing to do when you receive these calls is to simply hang up and not engage with the caller at all.  Below are several examples of recent scams that have been reported to the Dover Police Department in the last several months:

Jury Duty/Warrant Scam:
  One of the recent scams involves phone calls from persons falsely identifying themselves as members of the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and/or Delaware Courts.  The callers have been telling recipients that they missed jury duty and must pay a fine over the phone/wire transfer immediately to avoid or cancel a warrant for their arrest.  The Kent County Sheriff’s Office has reported at least half a dozen such calls that they are aware of.  No court representative will phone your home asking for money. If you are called, do not give out any personal or financial information. Be on alert and report calls.  If you are unsure of a call/letter from the Delaware Court system or Kent County Sheriff’s Office, you should contact the appropriate courthouse on this website: Delaware Courts (Jury).

The Puppy Scam:
  The Dover Police Department has heard of two variations of this type of scam.  The first is an online ad, especially on Craigslist, that claims an owner of several puppies is on a church mission to another country and simply cannot take care of the dogs any longer.  They claim the puppies are free, but ask to split the shipping costs with the victim.  The person will even send a fraudulent shipping label to make it appear legitimate, and request a wire transfer of funds for shipping.

The second variation of this scam is a person(s) claiming to have puppies for sale locally.  Many times, the person will even establish a website displaying pictures of the “dogs for sale” along with a local address and phone number.  Once the victim shows interest in the dogs for sale, the person will request a wire transfer deposit to hold the dog until it is ready to be picked up or payment for shipping the animal.  The buyer never receives the animal or their money back.

IRS Scam:  The IRS Scam has seemed to pick up in popularity recently.  This scam occurs when a person calls the victim, often times from a Washington D.C. phone number, and claims that the victim or a loved one has a warrant for their arrest for unpaid taxes/tax fraud.  The caller usually states that by paying a sum of money, they can dismiss the warrant and the charges against the person.  Often times, in a panic, the victim will provide payment information or wire money to avoid arrest.   No IRS representative will phone your home asking for money. If you are called, do not give out any personal or financial information.  If you are concerned, you can hang up and call your local IRS office to verify your status.  Never send money by phone or wire transfer when contacted.

Craigslist/Backpage Scam:
While second-hand sale pages such as Craigslist and Backpage can be useful, users should use extra caution when making purchases from these sites.  Similar to the puppy scam, there are several false ads uploaded to these sites every day.  When a victim shows interest in an item, the seller will ask for a money transfer to ship the item, often times claiming to be out of state or overseas.  The victim will send the payment for an item that never arrives, and more than likely never existed in the first place.

There have been several recent cases where online sales have led to dangerous and sometimes deadly encounters with persons they meet for a sale.  The Dover Police Department encourages sellers and buyers to avoid meeting at a persons home to make a transaction.  Instead, meet the seller or buyer in a well lit and heavily populated area such as a rest area, gas station, or shopping center.

House for Rent Scam:
The rental home scam has cost several people in and around Dover thousands of dollars.  The scam is often the result of a false ad placed on Craigslist or real estate websites.  The person placing the ad will use actual addresses and photos of a home they obtain from sources such as Google Maps and legitimate real estate sites.  The person usually claims to be out of state or overseas for work or other purposes and uses this reason as the excuse not to meet the interested party.  The person will request a security deposit and rent in exchange for keys to the property that was never theirs to begin with.  The victim, often times in a hurry to find a place to live, will wire the money and potentially lose thousands of dollars on a home they will never reside in.

Utility Scam:
The utility scam has also become popular as callers pose as members of the electric/water/gas department, or other utility.  The caller may tell you that your utilities services will be cut off without quick payment.  Often times, these callers will have the victim purchase a “green dot” or pre-paid credit/debit card to pay over the phone.  If you are unsure of the validity of the call, hang up and dial your utility company yourself and request the status of your account.  These callers may also suggest they are trying to save you money on your services and ask questions about how you pay your bill, the card you use, and other personal information.  DO NOT PROVIDE THEM WITH THIS INFORMATION.


Arrested On Vacation Scam:
The vacation arrest scam often targets senior citizens and their love for their grandchildren.  The person behind the scam will call the victim and pretending to be an authority from another country (usually Mexico) and will claim that the victim’s grandson/granddaughter or other loved one was arrested for a crime while on vacation.  The person will request that the victim pay/wire a sum of money as bail to allow their loved one to return to the United States.  Often times, the victim who is typically an elderly person, will wire the money believing they are helping their family.

There are several other similar phone/email scams that have been reported to the Dover Police Department as well.  Many of these calls are from overseas and once money is sent, there is little that can be done for the victims.  The department reminds the public to be alert when it comes to these situations and never send money over the phone or wire transfer without verifying if the claims are legitimate.  For more information about telephone and email scams, please visit the following site:
Federal Trade Commission (Phone Scams)