When a scammer calls: Calgary police offer advice on how to handle latest phone tricks

Calgary police have some simple advice to potential victims of scams by phone.

Just hang up.

Scams have been around for hundreds of years, but acting Staff Sgt. James Grossklaus says fighting back today is pretty straightforward.

"Sometimes the simplest of answers is the simplest of actions that people take," Grossklaus told reporters Friday. "It costs nothing to hang up."

Police are warning, in particular, about one new scam that tries to elicit money from victims and another phone trick that appears meant only to annoy police.

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The social insurance number (SIN) scam involves identity theft after a caller tells potential victims they are with law enforcement or the federal government. They then try to use that to elicit personal information from the victim, ostensibly to verify their identity.

Then the caller tells the victim they have an outstanding tax bill that must be paid with a pre-paid gift card. They try to back this up with empty threats of arrest or deportation, Grossklaus said.

A second, recent phone trick involves a call that appears on call display to be coming from 403-266-1234, the Calgary police non-emergency number. The trick seems to be simply a way to annoy police and tie up resources, by prompting people to call the number back.

Genuine calls from that number appear as "blocked," police said.

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Police say they get hundreds of reports each year about phone scams and these two are just the newest.

Grossklaus says education is the best solution.

"We'll keep doing this, and talk until we're blue in the face. We just have to. That's our job."