Northbrook authorities warn residents of phone scams

In a response to a few recent incidents in the community, Northbrook police are warning residents of scammers who have become more technologically savvy and harder to track.

“They are able to use the web now to choose their victims,” said Scott Dunham, deputy chief of Northbrook’s police department, speaking at a Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday. “Social networking sites are proving to be a fertile ground for them.”

On Feb. 16 and Feb. 17, two Northbrook residents, one on the 1000 block of Springhill Drive and one on the 3100 block of River Falls, reported receiving calls from a person pretending to be their grandson and requesting money, authorities said. Neither resident fell for the scam.

Over the past two years, Northbrook has seen a total of 18 similar incidents, according to Daniel Petka, a spokesman for the Northbrook Police Department.

In three incidents out of 18, the victims actually transferred money to the scammers, he said.

“The important thing is to be more inquisitive,” Petka said, adding that the scammers usually tend to call early morning or during the night, trying to catch the victims at their most vulnerable time.

Scammers can mine social media sites to determine whether their victims have any family members and then impersonate them over the phone, asking for money, according to officials.

“It’s come to a point now that we believe (criminals) are actually trading roster lists of people they have successfully scammed so they can follow up with another one,” Dunham said.

Northbrook Village President Sandra Frum asked whether police are able to correlate some burglaries with residents posting information about their vacations on the social media.

Dunham said while it’s hard to make those connections, the police consistently warn people about posting sensitive information, such as travel schedules, online.

Northbrook officials said they would release in an upcoming village newsletter more information on how to avoid becoming a victim of a phone scam.

Dunham said residents should make sure their online profiles have privacy restrictions.

In general, Dunham said, residents should limit broadcasting sensitive information through the social media.

“You shouldn’t be releasing something you’d be uncomfortable with placing on a billboard on Michigan Avenue,” Dunham said.

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