LONG BEACH - Police issued a warning Friday to residents urging caution and common sense in the wake of a wave of scams, many geared toward disasters such as superstorm Sandy.
The scams are not new, though sometimes the approach is changed to tailor a scam to a current event. They all, however, involve some form of fraud with criminals using the telephone, emails and door-to-door visits to access victims finances and other personal information.
The old adage of "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," is the best point of view to adopt when any stranger contacts you asking for personal information, such as bank account numbers, or cash, police said.
The most common scams include lottery or sweepstakes scams, where a victim receives an official-looking letter claiming they are the winner of a cash prize, but that they must keep it confidential as part of a security protocol until the prize is processed.
Included in the letter is a check made payable to the victim with instructions on how to deposit it and telling them to immediately wire more money to another location, usually outside the United States, to cover taxes and other fees. The culprit banks on getting the wired cash from the victim before the bank notifies the victim that the deposited check is counterfeit or stolen.
Disaster scams target people following major disasters, as their name implies.
Like the lottery scams, the suspect typically asks the victim to make a payment to cover fees or taxes, or requests the victim's bank account information to transfer the alleged settlement or insurance money. The suspect instead withdraws money from the victim's account.
The "Jamaican Switch" or "Pigeon Drop" scams are similar and require multiple suspects. The victims are conned into giving cash or something of value to show they are trustworthy in order to receive money from the suspect.
Though not as common at the previous scams, there is another scam that targets the elderly, police said.
It's call the "Relative in Distress" scam, and involves a suspect, usually a young man, who calls posing as a grandchild and who says he or she is outside of the U.S. and was involved in an accident or is in jail. The suspect usually begs the victim not to say anything to his parents, then asks the victim to wire money to him.
Telemarketing and Internet scams are also widespread and common, police said. With the exception of internet related crimes, these scams are only handled by the police department.