The Great Falls Police Department on Wednesday afternoon posted on Facebook a warning about a scam that they have been notified about twice within the last 24 hours.
Here is the full text of the warning:
CELL PHONE SCAM ALERT! SPOs Garner and Swalek have taken two reports in the last 24 hours for an intricate scam involving at least two mobile carrier services, two local hotels, one package delivery service, and two innocent victims.
ATTENTION LODGING OWNERS, MANAGERS, AND STAFF…please read this scenario and pay close attention to packages delivered to your establishments. You can be the stop gap that prevents some real damage to the victims.
THE SCAM – To protect everyone involved we are using fictitious names.
Joe Scammer, who lives and works on the east coast, has access to records for Slinky Cell Services (we do not know how they have access to the information). Joe Scammer goes to the website of a different cell carrier, Winter Wireless, and sets up a fictitious account with Suzie Victim’s information.
Joe Scammer orders an expensive phone and cell service package on Suzie Victim’s new account, and has the phone shipped to a hotel in another state. Joe Scammer then sets up a reservation under Suzie Victim’s name at the same hotel, for an arrival date well past when the phone should arrive. So, to the staff at the hotel it looks as if they are receiving a package for an incoming guest, this is totally normal operations in the hotel world.
By tracking the package Joe Scammer can see when the package is delivered to the hotel. Once it is delivered Joe Scammer calls the hotel and, acting like Suzie Victim, tells them that he has to cancel his reservation and requests that they forward the package to a different address, in another state.
If the hotel staff cooperates and sends the package to the new location Joe Scammer then uses the phone for as long as he can, until it is shut off for non-payment. At this point Suzie Victim still has no idea that the scam is even happening and now she owes Winter Wireless several hundred, if not several thousand dollars. Suzie victim may not know about the scam for several months, until credit collectors track her down and now her credit is really a mess.
THE FIX – We encourage anyone working at a lodging establishment to pay close attention to packages being delivered for guests. And, to capture the information then call us right away if they receive a phone call requesting that a package be forwarded to a different location, in a different state.
We also encourage community members to pay close attention to credit reports and consider investing in a credit protection program. This could aid in catching a sneaky scam like this before any damage is done, or at the very least help clean up the mess after the fraud has been perpetrated.
As always, please call us if you suspect you are the victim of a fraudulent transaction. We are so grateful to the savvy employees who caught on to the scam in the two separate incidents in the last day or two. We were able to alert the victims so they can take care of the fictitious account and any charges incurred by the scammers on their behalf.
We encourage you to share this information far and wide. Scammers watch our page too and once they know we are on to them they will move their crime to another town. Perhaps we can head them off by getting the information out there.