Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart announced a new hotline Wednesday to investigate and track and scams, including emerging COVID-19 schemes.
Calls to the hotline–631-851-SCAM–will be vetted by a police officer and transferred to the Criminal Intelligence Unit to track trends. Depending on the information reported, a victim may be contacted by precinct detectives or Financial Crimes Unit detectives to conduct a follow-up investigation.
“We have seen a steady increase in phone scams, which, for many, go ignored but the sad truth is that these scams do harm unsuspecting victims and we are committed to doing everything that we can to protect our residents,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Now, residents have access to a hotline that is dedicated solely to tracking down individuals who attempt to commit online or telephones scams through the Suffolk County Police Department.”
The police department received more than 1,100 reports involving scams in 2019 and of those, 16 percent of people provided money. So far in 2020, the department has received 331 reports involving scams and of those 59 people provided money. The department continues to receive reports on traditional schemes, including bail scams during which a caller claims a family member is in need of bail money, and scams involving the IRS, Social Security and utility companies.
“We have been extremely proactive with educating the public about the variety of scams out there, but these fraudsters are convincing and people are still being bilked out of their hard-earned money,” Suffolk County Police Geraldine Hart said. “We are hopeful that this hotline will allow us to stay ahead of scammers and identify a scam prior to it becoming a wider issue.”
Opportunistic fraudsters are also using the pandemic to launch scams including blackmail attempts, work from home scams, paying for non-existent medical treatments or equipment and investment scams.