Is Someone Ringing Your Doorbell, Calling Your Phone or Communicating With You Online? Research, Verify, and Report

— Written By Rachel Monteverdi

According to the research, each generation since the Greatest and Baby Boomer have become less trusting of others. Younger generations do not always place their trust in strangers, in phone calls or in information they receive online. By contrast, older individuals were brought up to believe your word is your bond and few have previously heard of the scams that are taking place in 2014. In fact, scams across the globe are so prevalent, the FBI, Better Business Bureau, and other agencies have names for them. Have you heard of the IRS Scam, Grandparent Scam, the Pigeon Drop, the Sweepstakes/Contest Ploy, or Smishing? If you haven’t, read on.

The IRS scam occurs when people call with fake ID numbers demanding payment to the IRS by credit card, wire transfer or debit card. Those who refuse to pay are threatened with the loss of a driver’s license, business license, arrest or deportation. The callers are identifying individuals with a portion of their social security numbers and many are often calling a second time pretending to be an officer or another official.  Unfortunately, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is reporting this as the largest phone scam in IRS history with thousands scammed out of more than one million dollars recently.

The grandparent scam occurs when a younger person calls an older person and says something to the effect of, “Hi, Grandma. Do you know who this is?” When they guess a name, the caller confirms and tells the tale of an unexpected financial emergency like a car breaking down.  The con artist cries for help in the form of several hundred dollars and sometimes puts an ‘official’ person on the line to verify the story. They usually want the money sent through vendors such as MoneyGram or Western Union, who do not always require collecting of information. Simultaneously, the con artist pleads for secrecy and asks the grandparent not to tell others. Through the love of a grandchild, the grandparent complies.  Unfortunately, this scam can be repeated multiple times before discovered.

The pigeon drop can happen in person, by phone or by mail. An individual posing as a trustworthy citizen, lawyer, or banker, shares that there is a large sum of money that has recently been found. They are willing to split the funds if the victim would make a ‘good faith’ payment out of their bank account.

 Have you received something in the mail stating: Congratulations, you are a winner?   Imagine finding a letter in your mailbox with a check that can be deposited in the bank today. The letter explains that although you just won the sweepstakes and can spend the cash instantly, there are fees or taxes to be paid for the prize money by wire transfer immediately. The criminals collect your money and the fake check bounces within a few days.

 Smishing occurs the moment you receive a text alerting you of a problem with your bank account. The individual texting appears to be from your bank and wants you to verify your bank account information online or by phone.   A reply message to the text with the words, “Stop, no” or anything else will immediately alert the sender that they have a ‘real’ person on the line. The Internet link the crook wants you to visit may lead to placing malicious software on your computer. Even worse, if you call them, the conversation could lead to identify theft. Your best bet is to review your statement and notify your bank through the contact information provided directly from them.

 For each of these situations, you will need to know who you are dealing with, do your research, verify the information and report fraud to the Attorney General, Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau, IRS and others. Remember, con artists do their homework. They read newspaper obituaries, gather information online, from social media websites and other sources to do their best and accomplish their goal of stealing money from you without consequences to them. Oftentimes, they use emotion as a weapon. Keep your personal information private and secure – and verify, research and report scams!

Other scams you may be interested in researching are: the relationship scam, the advance fee scam, the employment scam, the fake accident scam, the funeral and cemetery scam, the rental property scam, charity scam, reverse mortgage scam, fake health products scam, overpayment scam, phishing and more.   Visit national and North Carolina websites below for more information:  

 http://publications.usa.gov/ – see consumer protection link

http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts

http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Fraud-Alerts

http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Warns-of-Pervasive-Telephone-Scam

http://www.ncoa.org/enhance-economic-security/economic-security-Initiative/savvy-saving-seniors/top-10-scams-targeting.html

http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors

http://www.westernunion.com/sites/us/consumer-protection/KnowledgeCenter.page

http://ncdoj.gov/Top-Issues/Seniors/Senior-Fraud-Videos.aspx

http://www.ncdhhs.gov/aging/fraud/alert.htm

http://ncdoj.gov/Help-for-Victims.aspx

http://ncdoj.gov/Protect-Yourself/Stop-Telemarketers.aspx

http://ncdoj.gov/News-and-Alerts/Alerts/Grandparent-Scammers-Try-a-New-Angle.aspx

https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/raddocs/victim.htm

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Rachel Harris Monteverdi is a Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, a division of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University. The Family & Consumer Sciences department includes prenatal to end-of-life programs. Priorities for North Carolina citizens include: Family & Parenting Education; Balancing Work & Family Workshops; Academic Success; Active Aging; Planning for the Future; Home Ownership & Housing Issues; Conservation & Environmental Issues; Leadership; Emergency Management and more. Call 919-496-3344, email Rachel_Monteverdi@ncsu.edu or visit http://franklin.ces.ncsu.edu for additional information.

Written By

Photo of Rachel MonteverdiRachel MonteverdiExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences (919) 496-3344 rachel_monteverdi@ncsu.eduFranklin County, North Carolina
Updated on Mar 30, 2014
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