Princeton Police Blotter: Identity theft, PayPal poser, disaster scam

A Western Way resident reported to police on Sept. 27 that someone filed for unemployment benefits using her social security number. The detective bureau is investigating the identity theft incident.

On Sept. 29, a resident of Russell Road reported that a woman contacted her posing as a representative from PayPal and scammed the resident into sending her $3,000 via Zelle. The detective bureau is investigating the case.

Just after midnight on Sept. 22, police stopped a 32-year-old Wayne resident for speeding on State Road and charged the man with driving while intoxicated. He was taken to the police station, where he was processed and later released.

A Princeton resident was pulled over by a police officer just before 1 a.m. on Sept. 27 for failing to keep right and was arrested for driving while intoxicated. The 28-year-old man was taken to police headquarters, where he was processed and then released to a sober adult.

Disaster fraud scam reported to Planet Princeton by area residents:

People are sending text messages to residents pretending to be representatives from FEMA. They attempt to set up a time to talk by phone to discuss damages. The scammers ask for FEMA registration numbers and other personal information like social security numbers. This is a scam. FEMA won’t text you or call you to ask for financial account information.

Other common fraud practices include:

Fake offers of state or federal aid – Federal and state workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration personnel never charge survivors for applying for disaster assistance, inspections, or help in completing applications.

Phony property inspectors – FEMA inspectors will never ask for your social security number. No government disaster assistance official will call you to ask for your financial account information. If you doubt a FEMA representative is legitimate, hang up and call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. to report the incident. FEMA’s housing inspectors never charge a fee to inspect your property.

Fraudulent Charities – Watch out for phony charitable organizations. Criminals exploit survivors by sending fraudulent communications through email or social media and by creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions.

Phony building contractors – A FEMA housing inspector’s job is to verify damage. FEMA does not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. FEMA recommends hiring a reputable engineer, architect, or building official to inspect your home. An unethical contractor may create damage to get work. When in doubt, report any suspicious behavior to your local authorities.

Make sure you always use a licensed local contractor who has reliable references. Require a written contract from anyone you hire. Be sure to get a written receipt for any payment. Do not pay more than half the cost of the job upfront. If one estimate sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many unethical contractors provide low-ball bids that seem attractive. But these contractors are often uninsured and may charge substantial cancellation fees. Ask contractors if they have done this type of repair work before. Ask if they will purchase necessary permits and if the work will be inspected. Be sure the contract spells out who pays for the required permits. Try to get three separate bids for the job. Don’t be pressured into making a quick decision. Insist on receiving a written estimate or contract. And don’t sign anything you don’t understand or contracts that have blank spaces. Always pay for repair work by check or credit card in order to keep a record and avoid double charges.

To report disaster-related scams, fraud, and identity theft, contact your local police department and call FEMA’s toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.