People being scammed out of ‘thousands of dollars,’ West Deer police chief says
West Deer Police Chief Jon Lape has seen phone scams pop up pretty much everywhere, including his community.
In the last year, Lape said his department has received roughly a dozen calls from residents reporting phone scams.
“They seem like around March, April and now there’s a lot of them occurring,” Lape said. “People get scammed out of thousands of dollars.”
Lape said the scammers target senior citizens.
“But it’s not just limited to them,” he said.
Lape has been chief in West Deer for 16 years. The department has 12 full-time officers, including Lape, and eight part-time officers.
Lape said it’s important for his officers to have a good relationship with the community. The department does various things to strengthen that bond, such as participating in West Deer Community Days, patrolling on bikes in the summer and having police officers present in the schools.
That bond has helped the department solve crimes. Community members that have had good relationships with officers have helped solve burglaries and address drug activity.
“They trusted them and confided with them and just told them information, and it ended up into an arrest,” Lape said.
Lape said people have called the department and asked what to do when dealing with a potential phone scam.
“Don’t do anything,” Lape said.
Scammers use a variety of methods to try to scam people out of money.
One way is to call people and tell them they’re from the IRS, Lape said. The scammers will tell the victim to send them money or gift cards. If the victim doesn’t comply, the scammers threaten to get a warrant, come arrest the victim and throw them in jail.
“If anybody tells you you need to go purchase gift cards and send them somewhere — no one does that,” Lape said. “There’s no agency that would say you’re in trouble and tell you to go do that.”
Another technique is to tell victims one of their family members has been arrested and needs bail money, Lape said. The chief said people have gone to banks to try to take out money to do that.
Lape advised people not to give personal information over the phone such as their birthday, Social Security number and credit card information if they’re not sure who they’re talking to.
He said people should be cautious and not commit to anything.
If someone believes they’re a victim of a phone scam, they’re encouraged to call West Deer Police.
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter .