Danger on the line
BBB outlines top 4 phone scams - don’t fall for them

By Sarah Pryor - Freeman Staff

July 25, 2014

Phone scams are a continuing problem. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Telephones used to be a means for family and friends to keep in touch, even from far away, but now they have also turned into a vehicle for scammers to try and swindle people out of their personal information or hard-earned cash.

A far cry from “is your refrigerator running?,” today’s phone scammers often prey on unsuspecting victims by posing as businesses or even people they’d normally trust, said Lisa Schiller, chief investigator and media relations officer for the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.

Here are the top four scams Schiller said the BBB often hears complaints about:


1.) Caller ID spoofing

Schiller said scammers use caller ID “spoofing” technology to impersonate the phone numbers of local businesses or even the would-be victim himself. People look at the caller ID and see a familiar name, and pick up the phone to hear a robo-call.

Schiller said in one common version, a recording prompts people to verify their credit card number under the guise of lowering their interest rates.


2.) Tech support scams

Schiller said scammers often claim to be from Microsoft tech support and then try to gain remote access to victims’ computers.

“Pam Webster says she received one of the calls. Webster, who works with computers on a daily basis, realized almost immediately that the directions being given were the same steps she follows when her IT department needs full, remote access to her computer. She says she did not allow the caller to proceed any further,” Schiller said.

“According to Microsoft, once these scammers have access to the computer they can install malicious software, steal personal information, take control of the computer remotely or direct consumers to fraudulent websites where they are asked to enter their credit card information.”

Microsoft’s online Safety and Security Center states that neither Microsoft nor its partners make unsolicited phone calls.


3.) Tax or IRS-related scams

Schiller said the BBB warns that scammers posing as Internal Revenue Service officials often threaten jail time and loss of property to residents who owe taxes.

The BBB has received calls from residents who say they even receive voicemail messages stating they need to contact the IRS immediately or face legal consequences. Other messages threaten arrest by U.S. Marshals for failure to pay the correct amount of taxes.

Schiller said these IRS and tax-related phone scams are being reported to BBBs nationwide.

According to the IRS, the agency never contacts taxpayers by phone requesting money. They also never contact taxpayers by email. If the IRS has an issue that requires your response, the contact would be made by U.S. mail, Schiller said.


4.) “Grandparent” scam

Local police often receive reports of someone calling an elderly victim and claiming to be a grandson or daughter who has fallen on hard luck - either domestically or abroad - and needs grandma or grandpa to wire them money.

Schiller said the scam is “picking up steam” again.


What if someone’s trying to scam you?

The BBB recommends the following tips if you receive one of these scam phone calls:

* Hang up - Don’t provide any information over the phone. Call the IRS, your bank, grandchild or local business directly.

* Protect personal information - In response to an incoming call, never give out any personal or financial information such as your Social Security number, financial information or any passwords and other identifying information.

* Report scams to the BBB Serving Wisconsin at 414-847-6000 or toll-free throughout the state at 1-800-273-1002 or at the “scam-stoppers” site at http://www.bbb.org/wisconsin/get-consumer-help/scam-source/.


Email: spryor@conleynet.com