The Iowa City Police Department would like to remind all community members to be mindful of potential scams. While advances in technology have greatly improved our lives, making things like banking and staying in touch with loved ones easier; they have also created opportunities for people with ill-intent to take advantage of that technology for criminal purposes.

Often times, scammers target members of the community who might not be fully familiar with the technology they possess, depriving them of money or personal information. The Iowa City Police Department receives an estimated 10 to 30 calls about scams per month.

The following are some of the most common types of scams:

  • Phone calls: The caller asks the victim if they approved a transaction with a large company such as Amazon or Netflix. The caller then tells the victim to send them money via gift cards with the promise of "fixing" the situation for them and repaying all of the money. Once the gift card numbers are provided, the caller cuts off all contact with the victim.
  • Computer scams: The victim is contacted and told their bank account has been compromised. The victim is advised they must immediately withdraw all money from their bank account and deposit it into a bitcoin account to avoid further scams from "hackers." 
  • Loan applications: An online advertisement will tell the victim to send $2,000 to help boost their credit and get their desired loan.
  • Easy money: An advertisement advises the victim to send money, receive a vehicle "wrap" to advertise the company and be paid for their efforts. Once the money is sent, the victim doesn't receive the "wrap" or any money for their efforts and the company cannot be contacted.
  • Dating websites: The victim meets someone online and builds a relationship with them. Once the scammer convinces the victim to send them inappropriate personal photographs, the scammer then forces the victim to pay to not have those images shared on social media.

Avoid becoming a scam victim

Here are some general tips to keep in mind to protect yourself from becoming the potential victim of a scam:

  • If an agency - such as someone purporting to be your health insurance provider, your utilities company or the IRS - reaches out to you asking for personal information, do not be afraid to hang up and call them back from a number on a trusted document such as a bill or health insurance card.
  • Legitimate agencies will never ask for payment via gift cards, especially government entities.
  • Donating to causes is perfectly fine; however, do research on the charity or organization you are donating to. Change your donating strategy to initiating contact with the entity versus responding to mail or emails you receive from them.
  • Be cautious where you save personal information (credit card, bank, social security info). Do not save that information on a shared device such as a family computer or loaned device.
  • If you are not sure about something you’ve received, ask someone that can help you decide its authenticity.
  • Do not click on links from emails you have never had contact with. Double check the email of the sender as it may be a phishing attempt.

Date of publication

Wednesday, May 04, 2022