Town of Nahant


Stop Scams and Fraud

Remember if it sounds too good to be true, it is!

General Tips: There are many telephone charity scams, many times they represent themselves as a police or fire organization. Before giving, make sure that the charity is legitimate. Ask questions. Ask for a call back number. Make sure you know exactly who you are giving to. Feel free to check on a charity- ask questions- ask the caller to mail you some information and for a call back number. Ask about their tax-free status and the percentage of your donation that the charity will receive. Do not feel pressured to make an immediate commitment; "deadlines" are a characteristic of a scam. Do not pay with cash; use a check. If you have any questions about a charity, please contact The Massachusetts Attorney Generals Office, Public Charities Division at (617) 727-2200 x 2101.

Consumer Complaints The Commonwealth of Massachusetts maintains an informative site for Consumer Protection. Use this Web Site to locate the appropriate agency and the method for handling a complaint. Additional information is available at the National Fraud Information Center. They maintain an extensive Web Site on fraud and scams which is updated regularly.

Telephone Scams
. The Massachusetts State Police Criminal Information Section (CIS) recently was provided with information from a variety of sources concerning a new variation of an old telephone scam. A caller pretends to be a telephone company representative to gain access to a business or residential telephone line, which is then used to make numerous additional calls. The caller requests that the nine (9), zero (0) and pound (#) keys be pressed, followed by the receiver being hung up. This supposedly allows the caller to retain access to the victim's telephone line.

2. Information from AT & T, VERIZON, GTE and Sprint indicates that while this scam is technically feasible, it will work only if the caller has the codes currently in use by a given telephone company for remote line testing. These codes are changed frequently and are accessible to only a few telephone company employees. It is technically possible that a third party could gain access to a telephone line and use it to place additional calls. Telephone technicians are able to test lines from a remote site, without interrupting normal service and without making any calls to the customer. Military telephone systems are PBX systems (private interchange systems) which are structured differently than commercial systems, but third parties are technically capable of accessing the systems as described above if in possession of the necessary codes.

3. This scam appears to be originating from within various penal institutions. A variation of it, which appeared in Rhode Island, targeted businesses with multiple-line telephone service. The callers would represent themselves as VERIZON technicians and ask that they be 'conferenced' into an unused line to 'check the fiber optics,' or something which sounded equally technical but was equally meaningless. The caller would then use this line to make numerous long-distance calls.

4. In 1995, a similar scam was reported in the Texas area, in which callers contacted military bases, hospitals, and police departments to request an 'outside line,' which was then used to make long distance calls. The callers frequently appeared familiar with the individual institution's procedures, even volunteering information on how to transfer the call to an outside line. The Naval Hospital at Corpus Christi reported that an individual who identified himself as a doctor at the hospital attempted to use this scam to make international calls. An operator listened to a call, became suspicious and terminated the connection. in 1996, another similar scam was reported, in which the caller claimed to be a 'phone company technician' and used an outside line from the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi duty office to make international and '900 number' calls.

5. Other recent and recurring phone scams include the following:
a. Callers purporting to be phone company technicians persuade victims to enter a telephone credit card number on a pretext of 'checking a problem.' Once the connection is completed, the star (*) key allows the call to be disconnected and a new call dialed, without re-entering the credit card information.
b. A number of individuals, including law enforcement personnel, have been victimized by the so-called '809' scam, in which they received a phone message, page or email message asking them to call a long-distance number for 'urgent' news. This news supposedly pertains to sick, injured or jailed family members, 'prize opportunities' or debt collection. The contact phone number appears in the conventional area code + seven-digit number format, so that the victims did not realize the calls originated from overseas. When they called back, they frequently found themselves billed for as much as $100 in international calling charges.

Originally, these calls originated in the Dominican Republic (809 area code), but the scam later spread to much of the Caribbean. Those involved in the scam apparently received a percentage of the charges from the local area phone company. Caribbean nations and area codes involved in this scam include: 242 (Bahamas) 246 (Barbados) 264 (Anguilla) 268 (Antigua & Barbuda) 284 (British Virgin Islands) 345 (Cayman Islands) 441 (Bermuda) 473 (Grenada) 664 (Montserrat) 758 (St Lucia) 767 (Dominica) 784 (St Vincent & Grenadines) 787 (Puerto Rico) 809 (Dominican Republic) 868 (Trinidad & Tobago) 869 (St. Kitts & Nevis) 876 (Jamaica).

Because according to international telecommunications treaty, each country establishes its own telephone rates, there is no limit to the per-minute or total charge for such calls. There have been similar scams involving numbers originating in various Eastern European countries, and further iterations are anticipated as numerous small Pacific nations receive separate area codes.

6. Because many consumers are now wary of the charges attached to '900 numbers,' or have blocked access to such numbers from their residential phones, many sexually oriented businesses have begun using an automatic switching system that allows a caller to dial an 800 number, after which the call is switched to a 900 pay-per-call number. Telephone bills may reflect only the 800 number called. 7

7. 'Cramming' is a recent practice of adding non-requested services to residential and business telephone service. These are billed via local phone companies by third-party service providers for such things as paging, voice mail, personal 800 numbers, 'line insurance' and so on. Many individuals are victimized at random, while others have inadvertently authorized such services by filling out flyers and coupons, depositing purported rebate checks, or answering mailed invitations to call an 800 number.

8. Another variant of the long distance scam targets service members overseas, usually in Europe. Legitimate 'call back' long distance providers offer a service where the service member calls a CONUS number, then is called back to complete the connection and is billed as though the call originated in CONUS. Fraudulent companies will simulate this service while charging several times the local long distance rate.

9. Canadian financial scam, in which individuals purporting to be Canadian attorneys inform victims via unsolicited telephone calls that they have won a Canadian lottery, sweepstakes, or portion of a legal settlement. The victim must pay the "Canadian tax assessment" on the prize or award to receive the award. The "tax" is generally 7 to 10 per cent and amounts to $5,000 to $10,000, but has been as much as $50,000. The caller requests a check or international money order made payable to an individual. According to Michael Cleroux of Revenue Canada, the Canadian tax and revenue service, Revenue Canada collects its own fees and does not hire private attorneys to do so. Checks to the revenue service are payable to "Revenue Canada." This scam has been reported across the US. It remains unclear how victims are selected, but many report they previously participated in Canadian sweepstakes, contests and lotteries. A related scam involved an "advance-fee loan" in which borrowers had to pay several thousand dollars up front for a Canadian loan.

10. Anyone who receives suspicious calls should simply refuse to cooperate and hang up, and should not offer to call back to verify a request, nor should pages or messages be answered without verification of their legitimacy.

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Mail Scams: There is a scam where a business or individual is sent a letter from Nigeria. In the letter, the author claims to be a official of the Nigerian government (Customs) and he claims that he has five trunks of silver he had seized and he needs to move the money to a safe country. The writer then goes on to say if he gets assistance from the recipient, he will give out a 30% share (about seven million dollars). All the recipient needs to do is to respond to this risk free offer and they will soon share in this illicit booty. Of course if the recipient responds they will be told they need to send some "expense" money to Nigeria to help get the silver out of the country. The expense money will never be seen again.

Home Improvement Scams: This is also the time of year when scam artists go into the "home improvement" business. Often a pickup truck will stop at the house of an elderly person and tell them that they were working in the area and noticed that the victims driveway needed repair. Since they are in the area anyway they are willing to give the victim a "great deal" on resurfacing the driveway. When the victim agrees the scam artists will quickly brush on some coal tar on top of the driveway which will make it look fresh for a few days or until it rains. For this "repair" with $30.00 worth of materials the scam artist will charge hundreds or thousands of dollars and quickly disappear before the victim becomes aware they have been ripped off. A variation of this scam is that these same people will "repair" roofs by resurfacing them with a cheap sealer and charging outrageous prices for this worthless "fix."

Remember - be suspicious of any deal that is "For Today Only", pressure tactics, a "Special Price" if you sign right away, or large cash deposits are required in advance. You should always get at least two bids for a repair job. Ask for and check out references of prior work. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has published the: Guide to Home Improvement Make sure the Name, Address and Telephone Number are real. Call the business and make sure they have workers in your area. Check with directory assistance to verify the information. Ask to see the contractor's License and Insurance Policy.

Another resource is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Board of Building Regulations and Standards. Be suspicious if you're asked to sign a blank contract, pressured to sign a completion certificate before the job is finished. Or if the contractor doesn't allow you to contact him by telephone. Be suspicious if the equipment and trucks are not marked with the company name and telephone number, it is required by law. Be wary of magnetic signs.

Urban Legends Debunked:
Various rumors detailing criminal activity, threats to public welfare, and threats to law enforcement are presently circulating via email, the Internet, and the media. With certain exceptions, noted below, these have been determined to be "urban legends" with no basis in fact. An "urban legend" has been defined as a story or rumor that (1) appears mysteriously, so that no clear origin can be determined; (2) spreads spontaneously, usually with changes that further obscure origin; (3) contains elements of humor and/or horror; (4) contains logical inconsistencies that are disregarded for the sake of good storytelling; (5) infrequently contains some element of truth; and (6) usually illustrates a current popular fear. The Internet and email are the chief vehicles now used to spread urban legends, thus guaranteeing worldwide distribution in a few minutes. The following are currently circulating urban legends:

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Flashing Headlights: On 03 Nov 98, a warning was received about alleged "gang initiation rituals" in which motorists are shot after flashing their headlights at vehicles with their headlights off. The warning is as follows: "If you're driving after dark and see an oncoming car with its headlights turned off, DO NOT flash your lights at them. This apparently is a new common gang member initiation "game" that goes like this: the new member being initiated drives along with no headlights on and the first car to flash their headlights at him is now his "target." He is now required to chase that car and shoot at or into the car in order to complete his initiation requirement."

This "urban legend" has no basis in fact. It has been circulating since at least 1992, but variations have been documented as far back as 1968. The original incident which is the source of current legend is the 19Sep92 death of Stockton, CA school secretary Kelly Freed, who was shot and killed after her boyfriend attempted to signal another driver that his headlights were off. The other driver, a 16-year-old, and his 15-year-old passenger interpreted the boyfriend's hand signals as a sign of disrespect and fired at his car, killing Freed. Stockton Police Department Lt. Tom Montes, investigator of the Freed case, stated emphatically the shooting was not gang related; the media was responsible for that label. Montes said the legend resurfaces about every 18 months. The legend circulated widely in Sep-Oct 1993 after flyers, some purporting to be from various police agencies, were posted, mailed and distributed in the Midwest, South and East Coast. At least two flyers looked like intelligence bulletins published by the Illinois State Police and the Sacramento, CA police department. All flyers purporting to be from law enforcement agencies were forgeries.

The most recent rumors appear to have begun in late September of 1998, following the premier of the "slasher" movie "Urban Legends," which features highly dramatized depictions of popular myths. A lengthy review of the movie, detailing various legends (including the flashing headlights myth), was posted on the Internet on 21 Sept 98, and the legend began circulating via email and Internet newsgroup almost immediately. No incidents reported to any law enforcement agency have been determined to be gang-related; upon investigation, all were determined to be ordinary instances of "road rage," in which irate motorists fired on other drivers.

Sign Language Mistaken For Gang Signs: This is one of the few urban legends with an element of truth. There have been a number of incidents in which deaf Americans, communicating in hand signs, have been threatened, injured or killed by assailants who mistook the signs for gestures of threat or disrespect. For example, on 12 Feb 94, a Los Angeles woman was shot in the face, but survived, when communicating in sign with her fiancée as they drove to dinner. Seven young men, believed to be gang members, in a truck driving alongside opened fire after misreading the signs. On 26 Feb 95, Latell Chaney, 20, lost an eye after being beaten by five Minneapolis teens who allegedly took his signing to a friend for signs inviting a fight. On 14 Sept 96, Matthew Tebow, 20, was shot and killed in Detroit after his signs to a deaf friend were misinterpreted during a brawl at a party. On 26 July 98, a Chicago man was shot and wounded after his conversation with friends on a sidewalk was misinterpreted. A gang connection was proven only in the Los Angeles incident.

Exploding Side-Impact Air Bags: On 23 Sept 98, information was received about an incident in which an unidentified police officer was killed when a vehicle's side-impact air bag suddenly deployed while the officer was attempting to open the vehicle door with a "slim jim." This information presently is circulating widely on the Internet, particularly in law enforcement news groups and World Wide Web sites. Officials of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued a "Notice to All First Responders" verifying that the story is false. NHTSA has researched all reported stories and has been unable to verify that any actually occurred. Information from manufacturers of automobiles equipped with side-impact air bags indicates that it is impossible to cause the air bag to deploy with a "slim jim." Additionally, late-model vehicles with side-impact air bags generally are equipped with tamper-proof locks which cannot be opened by a "slim jim." Additional information about this rumor is available from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Safety, at After an exhaustive investigation, the department's report of this rumor labels the story a "law enforcement urban legend." To obtain additional information or to report related incidents, the NHTSA can be contacted at (202) 493-0400 (24-hour voice mail) or NHTSA Airbag Information or by email at:

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Aid's-Infected Needles in Telephone Coin Slots: This legend, a recent appearance, states that drug addicts are placing used, AIDS-contaminated hypodermic needles in the coin slots of pay telephones. No specific locations have been reported, although the rumor has circulated widely on the Internet, usually attributed either to an unidentified EMT or telephone company sources. It is believed to derive from an earlier rumor about victims contracting AIDS through being jabbed with a needle or pin in a movie theater. Law enforcement, emergency services and telephone company investigators have found no truth to these rumors and there have been no credible reports of anyone being injured or infected from such a source.

Officials point out that intravenous drug addicts reuse hypodermic equipment repeatedly rather than disposing of their needles. Medical authorities further emphasize that the HIV virus can survive for only very short periods outside a human host. However, because some individuals find it amusing to contaminate public telephones with various substances, examining a pay phone before use is a prudent practice. A recent variation on this rumor alleges that infected needles are being left in seats at movie theatres and other public places, with the intent of transmitting a variety of diseases to innocent victims. None of the alleged incidents have been proven to be true.

Theft of Body Parts: This "legend" about the theft of human organs from live donors widely circulated in early 1997. It recently reappeared, possibly due to the recent arrest of an American man on charges of trafficking in human organs. The "legend" usually states that an individual, often a business traveler (locations mentioned include Houston, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Toronto), is rendered unconscious by a "doctored" drink received in a bar. When he (reported "victims" have been universally male) awakes, he is in a hotel bathtub filled with ice, a tube protruding from his back, with a note taped to the wall informing him not to move and to call "911" on a telephone placed conveniently nearby. Upon receiving emergency medical treatment, the "victim" learns his kidneys have been "harvested." Investigation by NCIS and other law enforcement agencies has determined that this story is false. It can be traced to at least 1982 and may have originated with a legal practice in India of private sale of organs for transplant, which led most Western nations to outlaw such sales.

A 1990 British case, in which three doctors lost their licenses for arranging the sale of organs from poor Turkish immigrants, further contributed to the legend. Pravda, the former Soviet publication, alleged beginning in 1986 that poor Latin American children were being adopted, kidnapped and/or murdered for their organs, including corneas, livers and kidneys. These rumors were responsible for a near-lethal 1994 attack on an American tourist by rural Guatemalans.

In the early 1990s, the legend was modified to report that poor Haitians were the victims; a similar rumor concerning the theft of male genitalia is now circulating in central Africa. Medical authorities point out that organ transplantation is a delicate and rigorous medical procedure, requiring a careful match between donor and recipient. Organ donation is a complex surgical procedure the "donor" would be unlikely to survive if attempted outside a hospital. Human organs are viable for only short periods (hours) outside a human host, rendering organs "harvested" in the manner described above unusable. Medical authorities further emphasize that such rumors could be harmful by dissuading individuals from participating in organ donor programs.
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"Blue Star or Disney Tattoo LSD: This rumor has circulated since at least 1980. Typically, a school, hospital or law enforcement agency will receive a flier alleging that LSD is being supplied to school children via "lick and stick" tattoos. These frequently feature cartoon characters such as those in the Disney pantheon, but may also be said to display Rugrats, Teletubbies, "The Simpsons" characters or those from "South Park," superheroes such as Superman, blue stars, butterflies, clowns, red pyramids, colored dots, or other patterns attractive to children. The flyers may also mention "microdots" or "windowpane," which are not blotter acid patterns but alternate carrier methods ("microdot" refers to LSD in tablet or capsule form, while "windowpane" is LSD in a gelatin base). The child licks the tattoo and transfers it to his/her skin, thereby ingesting LSD both orally and cutaneously, and eventually gets "hooked."

Some rumors mention allegedly fatal "trips" or state that a poison, such as strychnine, is added to the LSD. Although the flyers frequently attribute the information to an authoritative source, these sources either don't exist or never published such information. It is believed that the flyers originated with a 1980 bulletin published by the Narcotics Bureau of the New Jersey State Police, which included pictures of recently seized "blotter acid" featuring Mickey Mouse. The bulletin indicated Mickey was "stamped" on the blotter acid. This apparently became distorted in repetition from "stamped with Mickey Mouse" to "stamps with Mickey Mouse." A French investigator inadvertently fueled the rumor with the information that French prisoners received LSD "tabs" concealed beneath the postage stamps on incoming mail. Drug abuse experts point out that LSD is not addictive, and that receiving a hallucinogenic or dangerous dose via skin contact is extremely unlikely.

Rumors and legends about drug dealers "hooking" new customers, especially children, with free "samples" have circulated in the US since at least 1920. Narcotics investigators note that the Disney video "Fantasia," featuring a sequence called "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is popular among users of hallucinogenic drugs and has been seen at "raves."

Additional information can be obtained by emailing the Criminal Intelligence Unit at NCIS personnel are encouraged to provide the information in this bulletin to all Department of Navy and law enforcement personnel who may be concerned about any of the above "legends."

Know of a new scam? Drop us a line. Or call the Nahant Police Department at 781-581-1212.

Click here to read about The Latest Scams (2014)

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