3 Cons That Use a Phone
and What You Can Do to Stop Them
If you have ultimate financial responsibility for an aging parent, it is critically important that you make sure he or she is as insulated as possible from identity thieves.
If your elderly parents get cleaned out, this can be very bad news for you and your family, particularly if you have financial responsibility for their comfort and needs.
When it comes to scams, awareness is the first step to prevention and keeping yourself and loved ones, especially the elderly who may live alone, safe from these criminals.
Scam #1: You get a call from a 911 area code,
it’s ‘Microsoft’ on the line, your computer
has a nasty virus, and they’re ready to help clean it up…
With the Internet, it’s easy for crooks to cheat people from anywhere in the world. Once a scam no longer works in one country, they can easily move into the next one and try their luck on a new population of victims. One recent phone scam in America seems to have its origin in the UK starting from as far back as 2008, according to the Guardian.
Here’s how it works:
You get a call at home, the caller (criminal) asks for you by name and address, and innocently says, “I’m calling from Microsoft, and we have a report from your Internet service provider of serious computer problems…“
Then they turn up the heat with a little fear and say something like, “…if the problem isn’t solved quickly your computer could crash and become unusable…“
Next, the con artist gives the computer owner very clear and specific instructions to give the con artist remote control of the computer over the Internet so he can “fix the problem,” download software to help repair the system, etc…
This is all a scam; there’s nothing wrong with the computer. The criminal wants access to your system and to download malicious software to your computer. In the U.S., victims report the calls come from a 911 area code. However, this area code does not exist. If your caller ID displays it, ignore it and don’t answer.
It’s important to note that the Guardian reports these crooks call from India using Internet-based phone systems (similar to Skype), which means they can make almost any phone number display onto your caller ID. Keep your antenna up and trust your gut. If it feels fishy, it probably is.
Scam #2: Long Distance Toll-Charges
Make Crooks Rich
This is an old scam that never dies. The criminal wants you to call a toll-charge phone number (you are charged for each minute on the call), keeps you on the line for as long as possible, and the crook pockets all the money.
The warning sign is often the call-back number itself. It usually has an area code with which you’re not familiar. Most recently, victims report getting calls from an 809 area code, but it could be any combination.
One thing you can do, although not foolproof, is type the phone number into Google or Ixquick.com and run an Internet search. This simple search could reveal that the number is connected to a scam victimizing others. If it is, don’t call back. There are a variety of “stories” used to dupe the caller.
One of the more disgusting tricks is telling you a loved one is injured and you need to call to help them;
Others ask you to call to clear up a credit card or bank account problem.
Some promise a job interview.
Keep your eyes open, because the request for the call back is delivered on many different formats: a message left on your voicemail, by email, or the number just appears on your caller ID.
If you call it back, you will be kept you on the phone for as long as possible by asking you useless questions, asking you to fill out a survey, etc. In each case, you’re charged for the call for each minute and the crook pockets your money.
Scam #3: The Missed Jury Duty Arrest Threat
One more recent scam involves scaring the pants off the elderly with arrest for missing jury duty. The mark gets a call from an officious sounding courthouse office advising the victim of their imminent arrest for blowing off jury duty.
The mark naturally denies ever getting the jury summons and tries very hard to avert being arrested and taken down to jail. The scam artist appears to relent and reluctantly agrees to remove the mark from the arrest ledger. But of course, in order to do that, they need the full address, date of birth and social security number of the victim.
The mark happily hands this critical information over, thinking they have avoided arrest. In reality, they have given the scam artist gang everything they need to open credit lines in their name, and otherwise potentially ruin that individual financially.
Many victims of these types of scams suffer not only financially, but emotionally as well. It’s not easy knowing you’ve been duped by a clever criminal, or when your trust in your fellow man has been betrayed. If you do fall victim, chalk it up as a learning experience and vow never to let it happen to you again.
In fact, the 911 area code scam mentioned above was reported to us by an associate who fell for a similar scam many years ago. The motto here should be: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!”
Keep your eyes peeled and antennae up to guard against these scams. Listen to your gut. If you get a phone call, an email, a text, voice mail, fax, or even a page asking you to contact a strange number, stop for a moment. Use of the tips above to check out that number before you call it and stay safe.
Another option: Google the phone number that’s calling you, or some of the keywords in the pitch the caller gives you. That’s one search that could save you a lot of money and heartache!