scamATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - Chief Jerry Vasto is alerting residents that several borough residents have been receiving telephone calls involving various scams over the past few months. One of the scams involves a suspect calling a resident identifying themselves as a representative of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) trying to collect funds from back taxes or tax fraud that is alleged to have been committed by the resident. The suspect provides the resident with information concerning their identity stating that they owe a specific amount of money and if it is not paid in an allotted time they will be arrested and responsible for a much larger sum of money. The caller requests payment via money order, credit card or cash which is not consistent with IRS procedures.

A similar scam involves a suspect calling a resident or business owner stating they are a representative of JCP&L or PSE&G (electric companies) and they are in arrears with their electric power about to be shut off. The suspect tells the resident that they must provide payment in cash or money order to a collection representative that will come in person within an hour to their home or their power will be shut off after that one hour. This is not consistent with power company procedures as well as PSE&G not providing service to our town or the area.

Several lottery and publisher's clearing house type scams have been reported with the scam being over the phone to residents. The suspect calls the resident stating that they are a finalist in a million dollar sweepstakes contest but to retrieve their entrance application they must provide an amount of money to activate the account. They have the resident provide a money order or credit card information over the phone to pay for the "account activation" to be eligible for the contest. This is not a valid contest and should not be confused with legitimate contests that may be solicited through the mail.

A computer scam that has been reported on several occasions has a resident's computer becoming locked while surfing the internet stating that they have entered a restricted area or viewed illegal content. The message states it is from the FBI and that all of the user's data will be erased and in a specified time period if payment is not received and the resident will be arrested. The computer is not able to be unlocked by the user or administrator and must be serviced by an IT professional to try to save the users files and records. If they do not provide the payment or have the computer repaired professionally, the program or virus launched by the suspect will destroy all of the computer's memory and files.

The last scam that has been widespread in town is one in which a suspect contacts a resident via text message or email stating that they are either in jail and in need bail money and have no other way to contact them. The other version has the suspect stating that they are on vacation in a foreign country and have lost their identification and money and need money to get home. They request money be sent via Western Union or other wire transfer to them. This version of the scam is often used against elderly residents with the suspect stating they are a distant relative that can't reach anyone else.

The scams and thefts described are often perpetrated against elderly residents with little regard for the victim's financial status. Quite often they are initiated from outside of the United States hampering the ability to identify and prosecute the suspects further. During the holiday season these scams increase with the suspects taking advantage of people's hectic schedules hoping to catch them offguard. If you are not sure if a telephone or computer call is a legitimate request for funds, take the information and contact the police for assistance. Please stay vigilant and report incidents to the Atlantic Highlands Police Department. Have a safe and happy holiday season!