Scammers use stolen personal information to sound legit

Posted: Updated:
FAIRFIELD -

Fairfield police say scammers are targeting college students, claiming to be from the police department and demanding money.

The scammers use an alarming amount of personal information to convince targets that they're legitimate. The scammers tell victims they owe police department money and use details like birth dates and driver's license or passport numbers to sound official.

Police say at least four students have been victimized in the last two weeks.

"These people were master manipulators," says Leah Pawelczyk, one of the victims. "They gave me information that I knew was mine, and they basically brainwashed me."

Pawelczyk says the scammers called her and told her they were from the Fairfield Police Department and that there was a warrant out for her arrest. Then they convinced her to put $1,000 on two prepaid credit cards to avoid going to jail.

The caller knew her birth date and her address, she says, so she fell for the ruse.

"These people told me there's a warrant out for my arrest because on April 2, they sent certified mail to my Fairfield Beach house address -- which was the correct address that I used to live in, in college," she explains. "And they told me somebody signed for it."

Police say no legitimate police department or government office will call on the phone to demand money. If anyone does, you should hang up and report the caller to authorities. Never buy gift cards or wire transfer money.

"Don't answer the phone for anybody that you don't know," Pawelcyk says now. "And always second-guess what they're telling you. And never give anybody money."

Police say the scammers likely purchased personal information from hackers who stole from credit reporting agencies.

"There's a black market where they actually sell that information," says Fairfield Police Lt. Jim Perez. "And they're using that against you."

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