PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. -- Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith is warning residents to be on guard against identity thieves who are exploiting the call-forwarding feature on victims’ phones and accessing their email accounts to conceal their thefts.
The Sheriff’s Department is investigating about a half-dozen complaints from residents in the Brewster and Patterson areas who apparently have fallen victims to the scheme.
Sheriff’s investigators say that the thieves apparently accessed the victims’ home telephone and email service account information.
Investigators have not yet determined whether the thieves accessed the accounts by computer hacking, through mail theft or by some other means.
Once the victims’ phone and email accounts were accessed, the thieves used mobile telephone applications to remotely put the victims’ home telephones in a call-forwarding mode, diverting calls to the thieves’ mobile phones, according to officials.
The thieves also changed the user names and passwords on the victims’ email accounts.
Once the victims’ telephone calls and emails were diverted, the thieves assumed the victims’ identities and ordered replacement credit cards in their names to be sent to several different addresses in Brooklyn; when the card-issuing banks tried to telephone or email their customers to verify the card requests, the thieves intercepted the calls and emails and gave the required verifications, police report.
The credit cards that were fraudulently obtained in the scheme were subsequently used by the thieves to make purchases at several stores in the Brooklyn area and an attempted purchase at a store in Manhattan, according to officials.
Several of the victims had reported the credit card thefts, but were unaware that problems they were experiencing with their telephone and email services were related.
Some victims later found emails regarding changes to their credit cards and password changes in their email trash folders, indicating that the thieves had diverted the warning messages to the trash.
Smith is urging residents to be wary of the scheme.
Residents are reminded to check their home telephone service regularly to ensure that they are receiving calls, and to check their emails and trash bin for warning messages from credit card companies.
Persons who suspect that they may have been victimized in the scheme are asked to call the Sheriff’s Department at 845-225-4300, or call their local police department.
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