STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BURNET — A so-called “phishing” scammer recently used the phone number of a Burnet County justice of the peace office to target a victim, leading authorities to send out a warning about potential fraud.
Phishing scams can take the form of phone calls or emails in which a caller or a sender will mask their identity with false phone numbers or websites.
“They’ll disguise their phone number to look like you’re getting a local call,” Burnet Police Investigator Steven Vollmar said.
“There was a lady that had gotten a phone call. The number that showed on the caller ID was the number of one of our JP offices,” Vollmar said. “The message conversation was (that) she needed to contact a number and punch code 85.”
The East Texas woman contacted the number on her caller ID, which connected her to the local justice of the peace office, according to the report.
She soon found out she and the office were victims of a phishing scam.
“They (the local staff) had no idea what she was talking about,” Vollmar said. “Had she picked up the phone (during the actual phishing call), no telling what they would have asked her for.”
Vollmar said residents need to know that:
• officers will not demand payment over the phone for warrants, fines, or other fees;
• legitimate companies will not demand personal information such as credit card, bank account, or Social Security numbers;
• and urgent demands to purchase an untraceable money card or send cash via wire for a payment should raise warning flags.
“Officers are not going to call you and say, ‘You need to pay over the phone,’” Vollmar said. “If they’re legitimate, they should already have (personal) information about you.”
The best defense involves being skeptical and following up with police.
“Just hang up the phone,” he said. “Report it to the police. Let it be known, so we can send out a public notice.”