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by Sid Kirchheimer, AARP Bulletin, July 26, 2010
Crooks have a sneaky new way to target homes for possible burglary—by posing as 911 dispatchers responding to emergency calls.
“They call in the middle of the night—around 3 or 4 a.m.—saying they are from a 911 call center that has received numerous calls from that residence, and they want to make sure everything is OK,” says Brian A. Gottschall of the Berks County Department of Emergency Services in Pennsylvania. “Then they ask questions that a legitimate 911 center would not need to know.”
Such as: How many people live in your home? Are you home alone now? Is there a security system? If so, what company services it?
“Our thought is that this is a scam to case those residences for a possible burglary or home invasion,” says Gottschall, who reports that several people in Berks County have received such wee-hour inquiries. The criminals appear to hope that people awakened this way will be too groggy to realize that they haven’t called 911.
His advice: Provide no information. Hang up. Then notify police.
This scam could spread to other parts of the country, because most people don’t know how 911 really works, says Robert Smith of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, the group representing emergency dispatch personnel.
What you need to know about 911:
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.
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