When I began to read this article, I expected to read about some fancy IT person hacking into traffic cameras, and somehow using them to read information off of your EZ-Pass or some other recognizable thing on or in your car. But instead, crooks are using laziness and fear to take advantage of people.
The Red Light Camera Scam
What happens is that the con man will choose a number at random; and once a person answers the phone, they simply tell them that they have an overdue fine for running a red light camera. According to the article, they are then told that “the only way to avoid a significant late fee, mandatory court case, or even jail time is to pay the bill right then and there, over the phone. If you don’t pay up you’re threatened with a warrant for your arrest.”
Of course, when this happens, there’s no bill, no unpaid ticket, no red light camera, and the person who was calling does not work for the police station or the clerk’s office. They are just hoping to use your fear and laziness to get you to automatically make a payment. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer (and maybe even giving you a supposed ID number), fear may overtake you and cause you to do whenever that person on the other and says in order to avoid the consequences that he is promising.
What’s The Point?
Once you agree to pay the fine, the person on the other end will then ask for your credit card number and security code (that three digit number on the back) in order to process the payment. Once they have that, they can then move forward and ask for your billing address, date of birth, and even your Social Security number – assuring you that all of this data is needed in order to handle your payment.
Of course, you would assume that if the police station was able to get your phone number from whatever information came up on the red light camera, they will also be able to get your address, and at least have the date of birth of the person to whom the car is registered. But again, when the fear of a hefty fine or possibly even jail time overtakes someone, the ability to think clearly and to logically assess a situation is greatly diminished.
You can rest assured that there is no police department in the country that will conduct business in this fashion. They conduct all of their business through snail mail and will not call you and give you the option to make a payment over the telephone. Even if you’re at the point of debt collection, all of this is first handled via mail, and once the phone calls are initiated, you should verify everything in writing before making any types of payments.
Covering Their Tracks
According to the article, the thieves will sometimes place a follow-up phone call and tell you that it was a mistake and then assure you that your card has not been charged. They will even apologize for causing you stress or bothering you in the first place. The purpose of this is to cause you to be so relieved that you aren’t in any type of trouble that you won’t get suspicious, and to also ensure that you will not check your bank account to make sure the payment went through. This should give them enough time to place a number of fraudulent charges before you decide to check your account.
So remember that if you ever receive a phone call stating that you were caught with a red light camera, going through a toll booth without paying, an unpaid parking ticket, or anything else of this sort, you should hang up the phone and call the police station or the clerk’s office yourself and inquire about the matter.
In fact, you should avoid giving out any sensitive financial or personal data through the phone, unless you are the one who initiated the call and you are 100% certain that you were speaking with the correct party.
photo credit: sskennel
- Have you every had anyone call you with a scam to get your information?
- Have you ever been the victim or known a victim of this type of fraud?
- How would you handle this phone call?