They say anyone can fall for a scam if the scam artist is good enough or if you catch a victim in a distracted moment. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I was born cynical.

If I eventually get taken in by a con, I don’t think it will be this one.

In Somerset County, Franklin police are warning residents of a new scam that’s already ripped off a number of people. Should this number pop up as an incoming call on your phone, 732-873-5533, that’s the Franklin Township police. But it might not really be them. I mean, think about it, why would they be calling you?

If you owed the township money in any way they would never call you. That’s not how police departments work. They aren’t the Kohl’s store credit card.

If you haven’t heard of it, there’s this tech thing called spoofing and it’s incredibly easy to do. You can fake your outgoing call as a different number that the receiver will see. You can pretend you’re the Franklin Township Police Department. You can pretend you’re calling from Montana. Or Brazil. You can pretend you’re calling from the White House. It’s been around for years. The first nationwide, mainstream spoofing service launched in 2004.

So what happens when this fake number tricks people into answering and the so-called police are on the line? The police (meaning con man) tells them they owe money for this or that or are in some other form of trouble with the township. They ask for bank account numbers. They ask for pictures to be taken of their driver’s license, passports and social security cards and sent to them. And, the mother of all signs that point to an obvious scam, they ask the victim to withdraw money from their bank and buy gift cards with it.

Gee, now can you read us the identifying numbers on all those gift cards over the phone?

How can people fall for a scam this obvious?

Greed and fear are the two biggest motivating factors for scams to work. Greed comes into play with scams like the one where someone contacts you claiming you’ve won some lottery or sweepstakes but you need to pay a claims agent a standard processing fee to release your winnings.

Greed will get you. Greed will cloud your judgment.

Fear comes into play with things like the grandparent scam where they convince an elderly person their grandchild is in another country and in huge legal trouble that they don’t want their parents to find out about. Fear your grandchild will be beaten in a Guatemalan prison cell is a motivating factor.

So is the fear you’re in trouble with the police.

So if you’re in Somerset County, or frankly anywhere else, remember, police don’t call you for money. And they certainly don’t accept gift card numbers as forms of payment.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to take this call. It’s the Nigerian finance minister who wants to discuss a proposal with me.

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