Beware and warn elderly friends
San Dimas – Most of us have become – regrettably – accustomed to unwanted telemarketing calls to our cell and home phones. But what do you do if the caller identifies as the IRS, law enforcement, bank employee, or other legitimate-sounding authority?
The San Dimas Sheriff’s Station would like to remind you to not allow yourself or an elderly relative to fall victim to phone scams by reviewing the following information and becoming aware of these true examples of fraud situations:
- “I’m from the IRS and you owe $2,300 now to avoid an audit….”
- A caller identifies himself as a Deputy Sheriff and demands payment of a fine for failure to appear for jury duty.
- A caller represents himself as “tech support,” promises to send a rebate for recent computer problems, and asks for information about computer login passwords. The caller then accesses the victim’s computer, locks it, and demands ransom to unlock the computer.
- A caller demands a withdrawal of $5,000 from the victim’s bank, threatening arrest without compliance.
- A caller represents himself as the grandson of the elderly, and asks for a wire of $5,000 to bail out of jail.
- A caller represents himself as a Police Officer in a far-away state, demanding payment of a fine to keep a relative out of jail.
- A caller says he’s kidnapped a victim’s daughter, demanding that the victim go to a bank and withdraw $4,700 to release her. The caller had information about the daughter’s school. She was located safe and unaware.
- “A new government program will provide free debt relief for 90% of your outstanding credit card debt. All you have to do is send us $500.”
First of all, DO NOT MAKE A PAYMENT OF ANY KIND without verifying the information through a reliable source. NEVER provide a caller with your social security number, birth date, account details, or any other private information. Any legitimate caller would already have this information.
The vast majority of these calls are scams. Legitimate persons with whom you do business will contact you via conventional means, and none will require payment via wire transfer, electronic debit card such as a “Green Dot” card, or checking account routing number.
Often, scammers who operate by phone don’t want to give you time to think about their pitch; they just want you to say “yes.” But some are so cunning that, even if you ask for more information, they seem happy to comply. They may direct you to a website or otherwise send information featuring “satisfied customers.” These customers, known as shills, are likely as fake as their praise for the company.
Here are a few red flags to help you spot telemarketing scams. If you hear a line that sounds like this, say “No, thank you,” hang up, and file a complaint with the FTC:
- You’ve been specially selected (for this offer).
- You’ll get a free bonus if you buy our product.
- You’ve won one of five valuable prizes.
- You’ve won big money in a foreign lottery.
- This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.
- You have to make up your mind right away.
- You trust me, right?
- You don’t need to check our company with anyone.
- We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.
Scammers use exaggerated — or even fake — prizes, products or services as bait. Some may call you, but others will use mail, texts, or ads to get you to call them for more details. Here are a few examples of “offers” you might get:
- Travel Packages – “Free” or “Low Cost” vacations can end up costing a bundle in hidden costs. Some of these vacations never take place, even after you’ve paid.
- Credit and Loans – Advance fee loans, payday loans, credit card protection, and offers to lower your credit card interest ratesare very popular schemes, especially during a down economy.
- Sham or ExaggeratedBusiness and Investment Opportunities – Promoters of these have made millions of dollars. Scammers rely on the fact that business and investing can be complicated and that most people don’t research the investment.
- Charitable Causes – Urgent requests for recent disaster relief efforts are especially common on the phone.
- High-StakesForeign Lotteries – These pitches are against the law, which prohibits the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail. What’s more, you may never see a ticket.
- Extended Car Warranties – Scammers find out what kind of car you drive, and when you bought it so they can urge you to buy overpriced – or worthless – plans.
- “Free” Trial Offers – Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products – sometimes lots of products – which can cost you lots of money because they bill you every month until you cancel.
Everyone’s a potential target. Fraud isn’t limited to race, ethnic background, gender, age, education, or income. That said, some scams seem to concentrate in certain groups. For example, older people may be targeted because the caller assumes they may live alone, have a nest egg, or may be more polite toward strangers.
When you get a call from a telemarketer, ask yourself:
- Who’s calling, and why?The law says telemarketers must tell you it’s a sales call, the name of the seller and what they’re selling before they make their pitch. If you don’t hear this information, say “no thanks,” and get off the phone.
- What’s the hurry?Fast talkers who use high pressure tactics could be hiding something. Take your time. Most legitimate businesses will give you time and written information about an offer before asking you to commit to a purchase.
- If it’s free, why are they asking me to pay?Question fees you need to pay to redeem a prize or gift. Free is free. If you have to pay, it’s a purchase, not a prize or a gift.
- Why am I “confirming” my account information, or giving it out?Some callers have your billing information before they call you. They’re trying to get you to say “okay” so they can claim you approved a charge.
- What time is it?The law allows telemarketers to call only between 8 am and 9 pm. A seller calling earlier or later is ignoring the law.
- Do I want more calls like this one?If you don’t want a business to call you again, say so and register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. If they call back, they’re breaking the law.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has an excellent site, including a breakdown of some common types of scams, as well as advice on appropriate actions. http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0076-phone-scams.
Be wise, and don’t fall prey to phone scams. PLEASE share this information with elderly persons and others who might not have access to computer-based information. If in doubt, call the FTC, your local Police, Sheriff’s Station, lawyer, or knowledgeable business professional for advice.
The San Dimas Sheriff’s Station may be reached at (909) 450-2700; or call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or visit www.ftc.gov/complaint .