Online Scams Are Increasing

Jayne Hitchcock here – I got my husband a police scanner the other day and noticed a lot of citizens were calling their police departments about a prevalent scam these days. They were getting phone calls from someone claiming to be with the IRS and if they didn’t pay a certain amount of money (anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars) they would be arrested. Well, that scam has hit Maine.

The scammer sounds threatening and demands payment be made via Western Union or a Green Dot MoneyPak Card (purchased from Wal Mart). One person duped by this actually paid $14,000 before realizing it was a scam.

I honestly don’t know why people are still falling for scams like this one. If there was a problem with your tax return or if you really did owe money, the IRS would not call you, they would mail you letter detailing what is owed. Also, you would never be asked to pay via wire or a card – that really should have raised a red flag for victims. It’s a shame people lose money from scams like this. Even if the perpetrators are caught, it is highly unlikely the victim will ever see the money they lost.

This is similar to the Microsoft Windows scam – you would either get a phone call or a window would pop up on your computer screen claiming there was a problem with your version of Windows. They would then ask to remotely control your computer (GIANT red flag right there). If you did that, they would infect your computer with a virus, then demand money to remove it. This actually happened to a friend’s wife. Luckily, I was on the phone with her while she was on her cell phone with the scammer. I told her just to hang up. She was being way too polite. She told me afterwards her computer had been acting very slow of late. I gave her the number of a local computer repair guy who is a friend of mine and told her to never, ever respond to any demands for money or remotely controlling her computer and to call me if anything like that happened again.

How do these scammers get your phone number? Two ways: 1. They scour White Pages listings online and call all listed numbers 2. They Google “cell phone numbers” and if your cell  number is somewhere online, they’ll get it and call you.

To lessen the chance of getting a scam call, either change your number to an unpublished one or switch it to unpublished and notify any white pages search engines to remove your listing. If you don’t make your number unpublished, the white pages search engines will add it again when they update their site every year. Don’t post your cell or phone number anywhere online. I use a free voicemail service at j2.com. The reason it’s free is it is not in your area code. I get any voicemails or faxes sent to my email inbox. I use this number pretty much everywhere I can online and put it on my business cards. If you do want to have the number in your area code, there is a small monthly fee you need to pay.

Microsoft won’t call you. The IRS won’t call you. Mark Zuckerberg surely won’t call you. My advice is to not even respond to the person and hang up. If they call back, block them on your smartphone or let the answering machine pick up if you don’t recognize the number (many scammers switch to a new phone number hoping you will still answer the phone).

But if you do want to have fun with them, you can do what this guy did: Man Records Fake Microsoft Call

Stay safe online, my friends.

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7 Responses to Online Scams Are Increasing

  1. Richard Goutal says:

    I’ve been thinking about an unlisted number. But does that eliminate robocalls? Does anyone know?

    I know for sure that scammers pay no attention to the “Do Not Call” list.

    • lizzie says:

      I have the same question. I’ve been getting a lot of telemarketing calls which I reported to Callercenter.com already in the hopes of warning others and I intend to change my phone number and have it unlisted. Right now, I’m already on the DNC but it doesn’t seem to be really effective.

      • Netcrimes says:

        Lizzie, if you have the capability to block the calls, do that. If not, get an unlisted number (a pain to tell everyone your new number, but it will help) and make sure that gets on the DNC list. Or let the answering machine pick up calls you don’t recognize.

  2. Great post, Jayne. As a rule I don’t answer if I don’t recognize the number, but sometimes, if it has come up frequently, I’ll answer and blow a whistle. Or I’ll string out the caller like the guy in your link did. If I get a live person making a political call, I say, “Here’s what I’ll do, okay? Every time you make a call, right? every time you call, I’ll make a donation. Is that okay? I’ll donate every time to–your opponent.” I’ve never had a call back.

    Richard, robocallers are set up to dial sequentially: 111-222-3456, 111-222-3457, etc. So an unpublished number won’t protect you from them. I once worked a switchboard with 999 extensions. We got hit with a robocaller and it nearly shut down the business for a time.

  3. Netcrimes says:

    Richard, I am not sure of the answer, but if your number is no longer publicly listed, it should stop the robocalls.

  4. Ruth Nixon says:

    It’s hit in my area in California and I work at a CVS and the stories I’ve heard. Mostly elderly persons and they are told were they can buy The Green Dot card money pak. Managers have to sell these cards and they try and get the person not to buy the cards but call the police but the won’t do it because they are scared of not doing because of being arrested and jailed. I’ve seen them buy 10,000 at a time.One lady came in using a walker and she could hardly walk. Asked for 2,000
    California lottery ticket scratcher. She was so confused I called a manager to handle this and she didn’t like his answers and she called the lottery number and she went out of the store crying. Couldn’t even talk because she was worried about the other person. I don’t understand why this Green Dot is allowed!.

  5. Netcrimes says:

    Ruth, I’m not really familiar with Money Pak, but I take it they can’t be traced to whoever receives the money? There should be some way to notify the police when people come in buying that much at one time! It’s so sad people are fearful instead of listening to you.

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