By Caleb Hutton
Bellingham police are warning people about a company that cold-calls people asking for sensitive information.
If you get a call from 1-855-639-8763, don’t give out anything sensitive, said Bellingham police spokesman Mark Young. Instead, hang up and call police.
An elderly Bellingham resident got a call from someone claiming to represent “The Eastern Division” earlier today, Oct. 24. The caller accused the resident of some kind of check fraud, then asked for a social security number and other sensitive info.
Whoever’s calling has done some background research on the victims, so it makes them sound more legit. Otherwise it’s a pretty typical scam, Young said.
Never give that kind of information out without talking to local law enforcement or your bank.
When Young called the number, the man who picked up the phone “sounded like he’d had a few drinks,” he said. I tried calling, too, and just got a voice mail box. Sounded like the guy on the answering machine had just smoked a couple packs of cigarettes.
So far police have only gotten one report of the scam. Young would like to keep it that way.
“I’d like to nip this one in the bud,” he said.
Posted by Caleb Hutton
Here are a few tips about how to avoid giving money to bogus charities, courtesy of Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State.
Press release follows:
OLYMPIA — The Office of Secretary of State’s Charities Program urges donors to avoid giving cash to charities to reduce fraud, discourage impulse contributions and increase transparency.
In recent months, the Charities Program has received reports from donors and “insiders” alleging the blatant theft or misuse of cash donations collected in storefronts around Washington State. Cash donations may or may not include products sold with a charitable appeal. The Charities Program discourages donors from giving in to pressure to donate cash on the spot and instead encourages donors to “check out” a charity before contributing.
While most storefront solicitors are honest in raising funds for legitimate charities, many are not. Bogus charitable causes and “volunteers” who pay themselves from the cash collected routinely set up shop in front of stores and appeal to the generosity of Washingtonians. This practice has a fourfold effect:
1. Giving cash on the spot encourages the likelihood of fraud because it could be pocketed by unscrupulous solicitors.
2. Impulse donations undermine a donor’s ability to check out a charity thoroughly before giving.
3. Cash that never reaches the charity’s bank account is not recorded, which results in inaccurate financial reporting to state and federal agencies and, ultimately, the public.
4. Cash given to bogus charities takes donations away from legitimate causes.
The Office of Secretary of State offers these tips to potential donors:
- Ask the charity to mail you information regarding its program service accomplishments and financial expenditures.
- Take time to research the charity so you know what it is, what it does and how it will spend your donation.
- Ask questions! Legitimate charities welcome your questions.
- Confirm the charity’s claims. Ask it to provide proof of program activity. If it’s local, pay it a visit. If it is not local, call around. Don’t just take the charity’s word for it.
- Donate by check so there is a record of your contribution for tax purposes and to prevent fraud.
- Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics; a legitimate charity will give you time to conduct research.
Financial information regarding soliciting charities can be obtained from the Office of Secretary of State’s Charities Program by using the Charity Search at http://www.sos.wa.gov/charities/search.aspx or by calling the program directly toll-free at 1-800-332-4483.
Donors are encouraged to report deceptive solicitations and fraudulent activity to the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx or by calling 1-800-551-4636.
Posted by Caleb Hutton
Text courtesy of the Blaine Police Department, with minor edits for style.
Wednesday, Aug. 22
8:36 a.m. A business on Pipeline Road reported that a battery had been stolen overnight from a commercial truck parked on their property. The battery will cost about $300 to replace, while the damage the thief did to the truck will cost about $500 to repair.
Thursday, Aug. 23
11:11 a.m. A couple on Mitchell Street left home for a few hours during the day and returned to find that a burglar had gotten in through an unsecured window. The thief or thieves stole a small amount of cash and smashed a Tinkerbell cookie jar. The loss is estimated at about $50, and police are investigating.
Friday, Aug. 24
2:50 p.m. A resident on Blaine Avenue reported that a package delivery service had brought a package to her house while he was not at home, and left it on the porch. Someone stole the box before she arrived to collect it. It had contained children’s toys and clothing. Police are investigating.
Saturday, Aug. 25
11:30 p.m. A passerby called police late at night to report that a juvenile was sneaking around a car parked on Martin Street with a flashlight. Officers found and contacted the young man sleeping in the back of the vehicle. He was visiting his aunt but found the small home too crowded for sleeping, so he decided to spend the night in the auto. The boy’s story checked out, and officers wished him a good night.
Sunday, Aug. 26
4:04 a.m. A person called 911 numerous times to find out if police had responded to an earlier call he had made about a possible crash on the freeway. Officers responded and explained that officers had responded to the call and that officers simply had not used their sirens while responding. The intoxicated man thanked officers and agreed to stop calling 911 for the night.
10:26 a.m. A resident called police to check the welfare of her neighbor, whom she had not seen nor been able to contact for some time. An officer scaled the neighbor’s fence and peered through the missing woman’s kitchen window. He could see the lady inside, washing dishes about three feet away, and called to her by name. Following a B-movie worthy scream, the woman came outside and was reunited with her concerned neighbor. No dishes were destroyed during the event.
5:10 p.m. Officers responded to assist Ferndale police and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office with report of a vehicle that was driving slowly on the freeway blocking a lane of travel northbound. Officers arrived to assist with the contact of the occupants. They determined the driver was from a foreign land and was not aware of U.S. traffic laws and our version of courteous driving behavior.
Monday, Aug. 27
8 a.m. The city received information about a business on D Street possibly selling liquor to minors and cigarettes to underaged kids. The information was forward to patrol officers and the state liquor control board.
Tuesday, Aug. 28
1:01 p.m. Blaine Police were dispatched to the Peace Arch border crossing after a fledgling post-modern baker arrived at the border with a bag of fresh baked brownies which contained a special ingredient prohibited by law. A Blaine officer confirmed that the baked goods indeed had suspected marijuana in them via a chemical field test. The Oregon resident was arrested, cited and released with the court date for the offense.
Wednesday, Aug. 29
8:36 a.m. A customer reported he purchased a $1413.56 watch on Ebay, but when he came to pick up the watch at his post office box, the package was empty. The victim had tried unsuccessfully to contact the seller, and Ebay advised a police report was needed in order to reimburse his money. Officers are assisting in the matter.
By Caleb Hutton
With the weather heating up, the state Department of Labor & Industries released some tips today to help people avoid falling for what’s apparently one of the oldest scams in the book.
TUMWATER –A homeowner in the Yakima area has fallen victim to an asphalt paving scam, prompting the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) to remind all property owners to protect themselves from unscrupulous contractors.
In this recent case, a homeowner was approached in mid-April by a contractor who offered to pave her driveway with asphalt for $6,300. He asked for payment to be made in cash. Several days after the work was done, the asphalt began to crumble.
The travelling paving scam is one L&I inspectors see every spring. Often, a friendly contractor will approach a homeowner offering to repave a driveway for a low price, sometimes claiming the materials are left over from a nearby paving job.
But these paving jobs can have a host of problems that include:
· Sub-par materials or watered-down asphalt
· Thinly poured asphalt that allows vegetation to grow through
· Improper preparation of the foundation leading to cracking
· Drainage problems
· Bait and switch pricing
Most contractors follow the rules, maintaining their insurance and bond and registration with the state, as required by law. But in paving scam cases, contractors are typically not registered, have no insurance and no bond. While L&I can cite the contractor for operating without registration, the victim is still out the money they’ve paid.
Property owners should watch for red flags, including contractors who:
o Want to be paid in cash
o Want a check made out to someone other than the business
o Will work only weekends
o Use high-pressure sales tactics
Anyone hiring a contractor to work on their property should first visit HiringAContractor.Lni.wa.gov. Here, you can verify the company is registered, check on the amount of insurance coverage they have, and how large a bond they carry.
The bottom line when hiring a contractor is to check with the state before it’s too late.
By Caleb Hutton
The FBI sent out a warning today in response to some malicious software reported by people staying in hotel rooms abroad.
From the warning:
Recently, there have been instances of travelers’ laptops being infected with malicious software while using hotel Internet connections. In these instances, the traveler was attempting to set up the hotel room Internet connection and was presented with a pop-up window notifying the user to update a widely used software product. If the user clicked to accept and install the update, malicious software was installed on the laptop. The pop-up window appeared to be offering a routine update to a legitimate software product for which updates are frequently available.
For more on the malware, and for tips on how to safeguard your computer from getting infected, see the full warning here.