Phone Scammers Trying New Tricks

Many people think they're too smart to fall for a scam, but according to an article in the current issue of Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org), scammers are using some new ploys aimed at savvy consumers.

Mandy Walker, a senior editor of the magazine, visited The Early Show Tuesday to warn viewers about what to keep an eye out for.

Actually — an ear! All involve would-be thieves calling potential victims.

SCAM: CALLER SAYS 'YOU'VE JUST WON ...'

Someone calls to say you've just won something like a valuable prize or foreign lottery. To get it, you're told that you have to wire money or send it overnight to pay for insurance, taxes and shipping costs.

The new twist is that scammers are using telephone-number spoofing technology through the Internet to disguise their real phone numbers on your caller ID with legitimate numbers of federal agencies in Washington, D.C., such as that of the Federal Trade Commission. They may also make up a name that sounds official. According to the real FTC, more than 45,000 people reported scams like this in 2006.

Tip: Remember that real sweepstakes don't require up-front payments. So, consider any request for money a red flag.

SCAM: CALLER SAYS "THERE'S A PROBLEM WITH YOUR BANK ACCOUNT"

The way this works is that you receive a call saying there's a problem and they can help you resolve it. All you have to do is to give your Social Security number, account number, or online password to a phony e-mail address or Web site. In one scheme, people were tricked into thinking they were dealing with Bank of America and asked to reconfirm their account information by going to a Web site that turned out to be fake.

Tip: Never give personal information to unsolicited callers. If you're not sure if the call is legitimate, get the number of the company on your own and call back. Tell someone there about the call you received.

SCAM: CALLER SAYS "YOU DON'T NEED A PHYSICAL TO QUALIFY FOR THIS HEALTH INSURANCE!"

People are vulnerable to falling for this one because there is so much discussion today about health insurance and premiums going up. "You will be offered a plan that sounds too good to be true," Walker says. "They will tell you that you can participate in a union's plan that you don't belong to and get low rates. If you ask about licenses and if their company is registered with the state, they will say they don't have to be because they are an association."

Tip: Check with your state insurance department to see if the agent is licensed to sell a plan and if the company and the plan are with the state department.

SCAM: CALLER SAYS "YOU DIDN'T SHOW UP FOR JURY DUTY!"

The scammer calls up and pretends to be a court officer and threatens to arrest you for not showing up, even though you weren't notified. You're asked to provide your name and Social Security number to fix things. Approximately 1 million computer users have fallen for this one in the past two years.

Tip: This is similar to the bank account problem scam. Don't provide personal information to someone who calls unsolicited. Also, put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov or 1-888-382-1222.

SCAM: CALLER SAYS "THIS STOCK IS AT 50 CENTS AND GOING UP TO $5 OR $6. BUY NOW!"

The way this works is that someone leaves you a voice mail message, supposedly for the wrong person. Messages like this have enticed some people to call and buy the stock. It's called a "pump and dump" scheme. It usually involves a micro-cap stock. The price is pushed up, then it's dumped, with your shares being worthless by the time you catch on.

Tip: Ignore unsolicited pitches and "wrong number" tips for any investment. Also beware of any friend who volunteers to give you inside advice. Do your own research, and invest on your own initiative.

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY

Walker says people are also being re-victimized: Scammers calling themselves "recovery operators" are buying lists of people who reported losing money in phony investment schemes!

To read the article in Consumer Reports, click here.
  • Brian Dakss

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