A Washington man was surprised when a scam artist tried to get money from him through a phone call. The caller claimed to be a relative who had been arrested, was in jail and needed bail money.
He didn’t fall for it, but the caller sounded like his granddaughter, and he was alarmed in that the caller seemed to know something about the family. However, he didn’t fall for it because he knew where the relative was at the time, and she wasn’t in jail.
Anybody can get a call like that one. Scam artists are busy. They like to prey on seniors, believing they are more likely to fall for the information given, but just the opposite may be true. Seniors often have their guard up and can be more suspicious than the average person.
A good rule to follow also is to be careful in giving out your credit card information or Social Security number over the phone to a stranger. Never give access to your computer. Often the caller pretends to be a government worker, such as being with the IRS, and says a payment is due, or some other trick to get your money.
A family member in trouble seems to be a frequent type of scam. Ask questions from the caller, who usually hangs up if you ask questions. The scammers use all kinds of deception in trying to get your money.
The complaints about scams run into the millions as to phoney calls. The Associated Press said there were nearly 1.3 million fraud-related complaints reported last year, up 2 percent from the year before. Most of them were scams by telephone.
The AP listed a few common calls to be suspicious of:
A loved one in trouble scam. The caller pretends to be a family member who is in trouble, such as the one the
Washington man received recently. The imposter usually says cash is needed immediately. Grandparents in Michigan wire-transferred more than $30,000 to a scammer pretending to be a grandson who needed money to be bailed out of a Canadian jail. Always be suspicious of this type of call. Check out the status of the relative by making a few phone calls.
Then there are scammers who call saying they are from a tech support firm and that your computer is broken or has a virus. They say they are from a big computer company, ask you to open up your files to take control of your computer, or say they need your credit card number to charge you for phoney service or software. Beware of a pop-up message on your computer that says a virus has been detected with a phone number to call. The messages should be ignored. If you fall for the scam, the FCC says you should scan your computer with security software and change all your passwords.
It is important to know that no government agency will ask you to wire money or send a prepaid debit card to pay back a debt. Hang up if asked to do that. A good practice is to always ask for something in writing if you get a call for money.
New scams pop up all the time. The best practice is to always be suspicious and question the caller. Often the scammer will hang up on you if you start asking questions.
A spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau said victims paid out a total of $744 million to fraudsters last year, with the average one losing more than $1,100, according to the Associated Press.