Nutley PD save woman from $40K fraud

A woman who thought she might be in trouble because of improper financial activity was instead being swayed by fraudsters — and when she went to a bank to withdraw cash to send to the fraudsters, police swooped in to save the day.

Police Director Alphonse Petracco and Chief Thomas Strumolo say the woman could have been swindled out of $40,000. Here’s how it all went down.

Strumolo says the Nutley Police Department responded to a local bank Monday, March 28, 2022, after a customer handed a teller a note saying she was being “held hostage — requesting police.” When officers arrived, they discovered the 75-year-old Clifton woman on the phone with a man claiming to be law enforcement investigating fraudulent activity on her account.

The woman was instructed to stay on the call with him while she withdrew $40,000 to transfer into a “secure” account accessible by him.

Nutley officers quickly intercepted the call and severed communications between the woman and the fraudster. Fortunately, she was able to redeposit the funds without any loss.

Strumolo says this is a common scam where the caller portrays a reputable firm or agency acting in the best interest of the victim. They then access money either through wire transfers, gift cards (from Target, Walmart, Apple, Google Play) or sometimes in person.

As a reminder — gift cards may never be used to pay debts, utilities, bail for someone jailed, etc. Ever. The IRS never asks for gift cards to be used to pay taxes. PSE&G won’t cut off your electricity if you don’t go to Target for a gift card.

“Fortunately, police were able to intervene before the transfer was made,” Strumolo said.

He said the call could not be traced because the fraudsters use unidentifiable phones and computers to place these calls, with apps like TextNow or Google Voice. A good number of the scams originate overseas, primarily from India.

“It saddens me to see fraudsters take advantage of anyone, particularly our elders, who are trusting and less suspicious,” Petracco said. “I commend the Clifton woman for recognizing something was amiss and alerting authorities.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.