CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Consumer Protection is warning the public about a phone scam in which callers falsely present themselves as the County Human Services Department and ask for personal information.
Residents are encouraged to report any suspected fraud to the Consumer Protection Office at 727-464-6200 or visit www.pinellascounty.org/consumer.
Residents have reported receiving calls from someone claiming to be from Human Services, promising large sums of money and requesting their bank account information. The scammer may leave messages with phone numbers for return calls. One report included callers leaving a return number with a 727 area code and another with a 214 area code. Anyone who receives such a call is advised to not provide personal information and to report the incident immediately.
Scammers also are taking advantage of the pandemic to steal money and personal information from residents. Since more people are staying home, they are more likely to be on computers or answering the phone. There are several types of scams that citizens should watch out for, including:
• Fake cures, treatments or free COVID-19 tests
• Fake charities using similar sounding names to real charities to fool citizens and steal their money
• False claims that the Social Security Administration may withhold benefits due to suspicious behavior or COVID-19 related office closures
• Scammers posing as a relative or friend in trouble and in need of money for an emergency like a hospital bill or to leave a foreign country
To report suspected COVID-19-related fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-4721 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on scams or where to report a scam contact Pinellas County Consumer Protection at 727-464-6200 or visit www.pinellascounty.org/consumer.