Phone scams. They certainly are plentiful these days in our world of hustle and bustle.
Now more than ever, it seems that scam artists are trying their darndest to separate us from our money.
According to a study by YouMail, a company that provides anti-robocall services, American consumers received 45.9 billion robocalls in 2020. That includes everything from standard telemarketing schemes— like the promise of “free trips” that you never applied for—to scams that seek to retrieve your personal information over the phone through some sort of ruse.
Recently, I received a not-so elaborate robocall that ended up on my voicemail. The message, about 30 seconds long, was intentionally vague and obviously a computerized recording. It went something like this:
“The very second you receive this message, you need to leave your work aside and dial this number…If we don’t hear from you, then we will be forced to take legal action against you. Kindly call us back.”
Oh, really? You start off with a scare tactic (“drop everything you’re doing!”), toss in a “legal action” threat and then inform me to “kindly” call you back? Interesting. Never mind that you didn’t identify who you are or what the so-called “legal action” entails.
Needless to say, I had a good chuckle and didn’t bother calling the scammer’s number.
While I don’t receive scam messages very often, I do know friends and colleagues who say they get bombarded with robocalls and spam every day. Clever scammers are persistent, and they are constantly devising new ways to fool unfortunate marks. No doubt, they live by the motto that “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
One of the more sophisticated ploys includes the bond/warrant scam, in which scam artists pose as law enforcement officials and claim that a victim has an outstanding warrant for their arrest and must pay bond to avoid jail time. To make the scheme more convincing, scammers will even use software to “clone” the number of a local police department, giving victims the impression that they’re speaking with an actual police officer.
Oftentimes, scammers will instruct victims to purchase a money card, which can allow users to deposit up to $500 or more at a time to a prepaid or bank debit card. Once the card is purchased, scammers then request for their victims to give them a code on the money card and/or demand for them to reveal their social security numbers.
As I’ve learned in my conversations with local law enforcement, scams like these are sometimes very successful, costing people hundreds or thousands of dollars. Sadly, our elderly citizens often become the targets of devious scam artists.
When it comes to the robocalls and other scams, we’ve all got to be vigilant. If you see a “suspicious” out-of-state number pop up on your caller ID, don’t answer it. If an unsolicited caller requests your personal information, don’t give it to them. Also, understand that law enforcement will never ask for bond or solicit money over the telephone.
If you’ve been a victim of fraud— whether over the phone or the internet— please do not hesitate to report the incident to your local authorities. You can also report an incident of fraud by contacting the Genesee County Sheriff’s Consumer Protection and Fraud Division at (810) 341-5923.
Ben Gagnon is a reporter with View Newspaper Group. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.