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Iowa City Police: ‘Tis the season for scams


City Hall
Photo by Drew Bulman

The Iowa City Police Department has received daily calls about scams, especially those targeting the elderly, according to an Iowa City Police Department press release.

The release included a list of advice, including never giving out personal information over the phone, never paying a fee to collect supposed winnings (as in a lottery or sweepstakes scam) and reporting any suspicious phone calls or letters to the police.

The police department also provided a list of some of the current scams in the area:

  • Grandchild in Distress — You receive a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild –- they even wait to let you say the grandchild’s name and continue to build on you thinking they are your grandchild — and stating they are in distress (in jail, stranded, etc.). The person on the other end of the phone gives a distressing story and asks you to wire money immediately to a location.
  • Bank Examiner Scam — You receive a call from a “bank examiner/employee” who needs you to withdraw funds to help catch a stealing employee.
  • Utility Company Scam — You receive a call claiming they are Mid-American Energy, your cable company or any other utilities you might use, claiming that if you don’t immediately pay your outstanding bill they will shut off your utilities.
  • Lotto/Sweepstakes Scam — You receive a phone call, email or letter stating you have just won a foreign lottery. They ask for upfront payment of taxes to be wired before your winnings are deposited into your account.
  • Classifieds Scam — You place an item for sale or lease in the newspaper classifieds or on Craig’s List, and receive a call from someone wanting to pay more than you have requested. The person tells you they are going to send you a check for double the amount and requests you send them back a portion, then keep the rest for your troubles.

Cedar Rapids has recently seen a slew of scams through Craigslist in which people were paying with counterfeit money.

Many of these scams are not new. A report published earlier this year by IowaWatch showed that scammers targeting the elderly steal billions nationwide each year. The report showed that scams and other financial exploitation schemes can come in cycles, with scams claiming individuals owe money to the IRS increasing around tax season. However, experts believe many cases of fraud go unreported, often because victims are embarrassed because the fell prey to a scam.

However, even when incidents are reported, they can be hard to solve or prosecute.

“Unfortunately, the suspects in many of the cases are located out of state and even in other countries, and the incidents are very difficult to solve,” the department notes in the release.

For more information about how to avoid being the victim of a scam, individuals are invited to contact Crime Prevention Officer Ashten Hayes at 319-356-5275 or email ashten-hayes@iowa-city.org.


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