Scammers target Connecticut consumers during holiday season

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HARTFORD--Local and state police are warning about new scams targeting Connecticut consumers.

State Police say phone scams appear to be on the rise. Troopers say they have been contacted about several unusual phone calls from people claiming to be the IRS, cable companies or banks.

In some instances, scammers claiming to be from the IRS have threatened arrest warrants if callers do not pay thousands of dollars. State Police have also received reports of scammers claiming to be from cable, mortgage and solar panel companies. The scammers have attempted to receive pre-paid credit cards or bank account information.

Police departments are reminding consumers to never provide private information over the phone. They say to hang up any suspicious phone calls and report them to police.

Newington Police are also warning about a scam complaint they received from an elderly couple. Police say the couple was contacted on Friday by a woman named "Yolanda" from Cox Communications who said their bill was overdue and required immediate payment. The couple provided credit card information over the phone. The next day, they were called by a woman claiming to be from Eversource, who again collected a credit card number.

Newington Police ask anyone with information on the scam to call 860-666-8445.

The Better Business Bureau says scammers prey on fear, and use the holiday season as a way to take advantage of consumers while they are distracted.

"The scammers are preying on us at a time when we are so preoccupied and so busy," said Howard Schwartz, executive communications director of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau. "And the chances are we might give in or, at least, they're hoping that we give in and hand over the information that they want."

The BBB says no reputable business will ever call and ask for personal information over the phone. The agency also recommends paying close attention to email addresses and even e-cards, which may contain links with malware.

"When someone calls asking for any kind of personal information whatsoever, hang up the phone," said Schwartz. "If it's an email, delete it. If it's somebody at the front door, close it and call the police."

The Better Business Bureau recently launched the BBB Scam Tracker, an interactive online map that allows consumers to view reported scams in their area. You can visit the tool by clicking here.

The BBB also recommends  talking to family members about scams, hoping that education and the spread of information will help keep people better protected.

"The more we inform each other about the prevalence of these types of scams and how they work, the better protected we are," said Schwartz.