In episode 47 of The Essential Boomer, Jim Jensen talks about how to avoid being a victim of telephone scams.
While on vacation in Hawaii I hear the phone ringing in the condominium that we were renting. Naturally I pick up the phone.
“Hello (In thick Indian accent), I am calling from Microsoft Tech support and I’m calling about your computer.”
I instantly recognize that the call is a scam so I decide to have some fun…
“What about my computer?”
“I’m calling to inform you that we have detected a very dangerous virus on your computer’s hard-drive.”
“What? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m sorry but I’m not very computer literate.”
“Yes, I understand. I will explain it to you. This is Microsoft Tech support and we have detected a virus in the boot sector of your computer. If you do not remove this virus immediately it will spread to your entire hard-drive and then corrupt your data and then crash your computer.”
“Oh no. This is terrible. I have all my personal and financial information on that computer. Can you help me?”
“Yes, I can help you right now. Is your computer on?”
“No, I’ll need to start it up. It may take a moment for It is very slow to start up because it is very old.”
“That’s okay, please boot up your computer.”
“You mean turn it on right?”
“Yes sir, I mean for you to turn on your computer.”
“Okay…but it’s located in the other room and as I said, it’s rather slow to start up so it may take a while.”
“That’s okay, go start up your computer right now and let me know when it’s ready.”
“Okay, hold on, I’ll be right back…”
I then put the speaker phone on and sit back to silently wait…After about a minute I hear him say…
“Hello, can you hear me?”
“Sir, can you hear me?”
“Sir…hello sir…are you there”
“sir can you hear me? Sir? Hello?”
“Hello? are you there sir? Hello?”
“Hello sir? Can you hear me? Sir?”
“Hello?…please pick up the phone sir…”
so I sense that he is getting very impatient so I finally pick the phone up….
“Yes, I’m still going to start up my computer.”
“Sir, why is it taking so long?”
“Because it’s in another room that isn’t close to the phone.”
“I understand sir. Tell me, How far is that room from the phone?”
“Oh, I’d say probably around 2,500 miles. You see, I’m on vacation and not at my house.”
This conversation actually happened earlier this week when we were away on vacation. Coincidently, I also received a call about a month ago at home. So If I’m getting this many calls from these scammers, I can only imagine how many of you are also receiving telephone calls from scammers.
First of all, I don’t want to in any way profile the people of India as scammers. That is simply not true. But it is also true that many of the telephone scams originate in India. It just goes to show you that there are a few bad eggs in every country.
I know that a lot of you are already hip to these scams and so this may be old news, but judging by how many of these I’ve been receiving there must be a whole lot of people out there still falling for them.
In fact, according to Truecaller, which is a worldwide telephone number look-up service, a little over 1 in 10 American adults lost money in phone scams in 2015. Which is over a 50% increase from 2014, so a lot of people are still falling for them…and these scams have cost 27 million Americans around $7.4 billion dollars.
27 million Americans! That’s a lot of people falling for these telephone scams. Who is falling for these scams? And why? What type of person is most likely to fall prey to a telephone scammer?
In her article, 10 Types of People Who Fall for Scams, Schemes and Cons, for MoneyTalksNews, Marilyn Lewis talks about the factors behind why various people are more likely to fall for scams than others.
In the paper she sites some findings from the AARP report, Caught in the Scammers Net. According to the report, it’s not just one group, like seniors, or women. There are actually many factors involved like the type of scam, such as the Microsoft tech support scam or the currently popular IRS scam.
So the 10 people mentioned in her article are:
1 – White males
White males are more likely to become victims of Investment fraud. This is because many white males are in the market for investments and therefore are more likely to fall for a bogus investment scheme
2 – Older adults
Yes, we boomers and seniors do get targeted more and are therefore victimized a lot. There are many factors that make us both more susceptible and less susceptible. I think that one of the big reasons that we’re so susceptible is that we are simply more likely to answer a ringing phone. There was a time when almost all telephone calls were important and it would be unconscionable to not answer the phone.
Us boomers and seniors weren’t raised with answering machines and caller ID. Try calling up your daughter or grandson and you will most likely end up in their voice mail. It’s almost like they have a phobia about talking on the phone. How many of you now have full length conversations with your kids or grandkids via siri and text messaging? Yea, I thought so.
3 – Younger People
but, just to make you feel better it’s actually younger people, particularly the male millennials that are most likely to be a victim of telephone scams. See, those wisdom of age has its place. Who knew?
4 – People living in Florida
According federal trade commission data, Florida is the number one state for consumer fraud complaints averaging about 1,000 per 100,000 residents. Yea, this makes sense too. We all know that there is a high senior population in Florida so the scammers focus on this state.
5 – the lonely
According to the AARP report 66% of the victims of scams feel lonely and isolated. This is why there is such a high percentage of fraud within dating sites. People are very vulnerable and want to believe that the person at the other end is prince charming and not Ralph the ripoff artist.
6 – The Internet
Marilyn also talks about how many people who are wary and distrustful of telephone calls become complacent and end up getting victimized by scammers on the internet. I mean, you can trust everything on the internet right?
7 – Extroverted and Agreeable people
People who are open, talkative, optimistic and agreeable are way more likely to become victims than their counterparts who are way, suspicious, pessimistic and introverted.
8 – In debt
Marilyn states that people in debt are more likely to be approached and fall for debt consolidation scams and other types of fraud in the guise o helping them get out of debt. which leads logically to number 9
9 – Desperate people.
People in debt are often very desperate and grasping at straws to find a way out of debt. Scammers also often prey on people who are desperate as a result of natural disasters, illness and as mentioned before, loneliness.
10 – Being Human
Yep, if you fall into the category of a human being, which I’m guessing that you do, than you most likely are vulnerable in one way or another. We all have our beliefs, and blind spots.
So now let’s take a quick look at the top 10 telephone scams to watch out for, according to Susan Ladika in her article,
No 1 is the credit card reductions scam.
This is the most prevalent scam out there according to a 2014 report by Pindrop Security. Almost everybody carries some kind of credit card debt. You get a phone call promising to reduce the rates on your credit cards. All you have to do is pay a and upfront fee and provide the caller with your personal information, most likely including your credit card numbers, social security number, financial accounts and who knows what else. In return you end up losing hundreds to thousands of dollars and become a victim of identity theft.
No. 2. Home security systems
In this one you get a call promising you a free security system. They may provide a list of all the break-in and robberies in your area. This may sound too good to be true. Well, so far it may be true, but beware, after signing on the bottom line you will soon get the enormous bill for the monitoring fees. And those bills will be coming each month for years.
No. 3. Spam text messages
In this scam you get a text message on your smart phone informing that you have won a prize and all you have to do is call a number or go to a website. What they don’t say is that that the call is from identity thieves who want to gain your personal information and possible to surreptitiously place malware on your computer to gain access to your information.
No. 4. Fake Free cruises
Like number 3, in this one you also typically get a text message informing you that you are the winner of a free cruise. All you have to do is pay them a small fee and taxes, for which they want you to use your credit card. Aloha.
No. 5. Bogus Government grants
In this one, an official sounding person calls and tells you that you are the happy winner of a huge government grant, just for being a good guy or gal. Doesn’t sound fishy at all to me. All you have to do is provide your credit card or bank information to pay that small processing fee. For the record.
No. 6. Microsoft tech support
Ah..yes, this is the one that I always seem to get as mentioned at the beginning of this podcast. Somebody, with an Indian accent, I’ve had both men and women call me, pretends that they are from Microsoft tech support or something related and then have you go through some gyrations with your computer to convince you that your computer is infected with a virus that will spread and kill your computer and anything else with a 20 mile radius. Don’t fall for it. I LOVE to string them along and waste their time by playing along and pretending that I’m a total computer illiterate. It’s pretty funny sometimes.
No. 7. Auto insurance ID thieves
This again is a variation on the same theme where the caller tells you that you are eligible for a lower rate of car insurance and then tries to get your personal information. Again, it’s another scam at trying to gain you personal information for identity thievery.
No. 8. Payday loans
The caller is able to obtain your number from your application for a payday loan, which on it’s own, isn’t a good idea, but the caller claims to be a debt collector demanding payment and a late fee. If you don’t pay them they may threaten you with arrest or worse.
No. 9. IRS scam
This is a scam that has reached epidemic proportions. The caller claims to be from the IRS and demands immediate payment on taxes and penalties, usually with a prepaid card, wire transfer or credit card. Sounds fishy huh? It is.
No. 10. Bank scams
Another variation on a theme, but this time the caller claims to be from your bank and informs you that your accounts or credit card has been frozen, locked, caput, and you need to provide account verification to have them released to your custody.
So what you can do to protect yourself? Here are some solid tips.
- I know it’s like fingernails on a blackboard for many boomers and seniors but one great way to avoid phone scams of any kind is to stop automatically answering the phone. If you don’t recognize the number on caller ID then let it go to the answering machine. If you don’t have an answering machine than it’s a great idea to get one. If the call is really important or from somebody that you know than they will leave a message.
- Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right than it probably isn’t.
- If it sounds too good to be true…it ain’t true.
- If somebody claims to be from your bank, credit card company or some other official sounding source then contact your company independently, either by phone or by going to their actual website. Don’t trust any information that people provide to you over the phone.
- If you feel yourself getting emotionally upset than that itself is a sign that someone is trying to scam you. Scammers try to instill fear into their victims. Hang up, take a break and then check on your own to make sure that all is well.
- If you think that you’re talking to a scammer than the best thing is to just hang up.
- and me, I rarely answer the phone unless I recognize the number but on those rare occasions when I do get a scammer I love to play along with them. Making a call from India or another country is expensive and so I love to do my best golly gosh oh gee whiz, slackjaw jim impersonation and just keep them on the line while playing with their heads. I know, it’s childish and not very evolved but I sure do enjoy it.
- a great resource to check on scams is the AARP’s Fraud Watch network. It has a lot of up-to-date valuable information on scams of all types.
- Another good source is the Fraud Watch State map within the AARP website. It has links to law enforcement alerts and notices about scams in your state. If your hip to the existing scams than you’ll know them when you hear them.
- If you do get a call from a scammer than report it to the AARP Foundation Fraud Watch Helpline at 877 908-3360.
- I’ll provide a link to this and other great sources for information in the shownotes to this episode located at essentialboomer.guide/scams
- Get inoculated: In “The 10 Golden Rules of Scam Prevention” Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson outlines tip-offs to cons and scams.
- AARP’s Fraud Watch Network is a good source for people of all ages to learn about new scams and find out how to spot them and to stay safe.
- The Fraud Watch state map links to law enforcement alerts and notices about scams in your state.
- Report fraud to the AARP Foundation Fraud Watch Helpline: 877-908-3360.
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