Lexington police are warning residents to stand their ground if they receive harassing phone calls demanding that they wire money out of the country or surrender their bank information.
Police have gotten reports of scam phone calls in the past several weeks, Sgt. Jody Stowers said at a news conference Thursday. There's little police can do to catch the perpetrators since many of the calls are coming from Jamaica and Bahrain.
Recently, victims have reported getting calls from someone claiming to be a police officer. The caller tells the victim that he owes money on a debt and will be arrested if he does not pay it off immediately, Stowers said.
If the victim hangs up, the caller calls back repeatedly. The scam's goal, Stowers said, is to scare victims into wiring money before they investigate whether the call is legitimate.
Some of the callers "are very convincing," Stowers said.
In other scams, a caller might claim to represent a bank asking for credit card information, or claim to be a relative who needs bail money.
Most of the victims are elderly people, Stowers said.
Stowers said he'd recently heard about a case in Arizona in which a woman wired $10,000 to a caller who claimed to be her grandson; he told her he had been jailed in England.
Residents can do little about the scams other than report them to the Federal Trade Commission. If the victim blocks the phone number, the scammers will call back from a different one. Getting added to the national Do Not Call list likely won't help, since the scammers aren't legitimate businesses.
If someone falls for the scam and transfers money, it's likely gone for good.
"It's just impossible for us to do anything," Stowers said.
Stowers urged residents to warn elderly relatives about the scams.
"When they see something suspicious, just hang up and try to ignore it," he said.
Residents can report the scams to police by calling (859) 258-3600, or to the federal government at FTC.gov.