Monday, February 29, 2016

Phone Scams

The other day I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize; caller ID said "UNKNOWN NAME." I let it go to voice mail. The caller, who may or may not have been a robot, left a threatening message. "I am calling regarding an important action executed by the U.S. Treasury requiring your immediate attention. Ignoring will be an intentional attempt to avoid initial appearance before the magistrate judge or grand jury and is a federal criminal offense. I would like you to cooperate with us so we can help you."

I had just read about a scam where a senior citizen got a similar call from someone who claimed to be from the IRS. The poor man was shamed into forking over $5000.00 that he was told he owed, in order to avoid being hauled off to jail. The scammer was the one who belonged in jail.

After my nuisance call, I filed a complaint with the Do Not Call list, which does no good whatsoever, but it made me feel better. I also noticed someone posted on a neighborhood social media site that she had received the same call, exact wording, but from a different phone number. I wrote about my experience in the comments. Within a few hours, over 60 people had reported receiving the same call, from various phone numbers and supposed locations. We congratulated ourselves that we had all recognized a fraud and failed to bite.

But someone is biting, or these con artists would eventually give up.

My 90-year-old mother-in-law used to fall for letters from bogus charities and the fake lotteries that assured her she was a winner; all she had to do to claim her million dollars was mail back a check for a small processing fee. And then the crooks got hold of her signature and bank information from the check, and started debiting her account every month.

Some of the phony solicitations she received were disguised as correspondence from government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration or the property tax assessor. At first glance, they appeared real, until you closely examined the fine print.

We finally had to take her checkbook away. It was a good thing she never got a computer. Otherwise, she would have been corresponding with Nigerian princes who wanted to park their millions in her bank account.

New schemes constantly appear to cheat unsuspecting people out of their hard-earned money. Some scams are easy to spot, but some are getting more clever. Caller ID and spam filters can't keep up. Government and law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed with complaints. If only these criminals would use their minds for honest work...

What suggestions to you have for dealing with scam calls and emails? I would love to hear your comments.

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