days, you cannot pick up the phone without running into
yet another fraudster demanding money.
it’s not a bad idea to just avoid unknown callers. The
con artists keep calling hot spots, after all, where
people keep answering the phone.
were blasted by 3.36 billion robocalls in April — up
6.5 percent from a record set in March, according to the
YouMail Robocall Index, a provider of voicemail and call
amounted to about 1,297 robocalls every second.
of those calls were from debt collectors, according to
YouMail. But robocalls are being sent by fraudsters to
make it look like the call is coming directly from the
Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, your electric
company, a bank or Microsoft.
Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission approved
a $120 million fine against Adrian Abramovich, who was
doing business as Marketing Strategy Leaders, which
initiated 96.8 million fraudulent robocalls for vacation
deals. Abramovich, who lives in Miami, Fla., has denied
firm used "neighborhood spoofing" technology
to make it seem like calls were from local area codes,
even using the first three numbers of the recipient’s
own phone number to encourage people to answer robocalls,
according to the FCC.
robocall revolt is building.
lawmakers in Washington have introduced various bills to
stop robocalls, automated calls that use a computerized
system to deliver recorded messages to cell phones and
landlines. One bill, called the Stopping Bad Robocalls
Act, would strengthen the Telephone Consumer Protection
Act and help the Federal Communications Commission more
take action against robocallers.
are a great annoyance for American families, especially
American seniors," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell,
D-Mich., in opening remarks at a robocalls hearing
before the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection
of calls are now unwanted robocalls," she said.
calls — including illegal robocalls used by criminals
pretending to be from the IRS and elsewhere, spoofed
calls and telemarketing — are a major source of
complaints for regulators. The Federal Trade Commission
estimated that fraud from unwanted calls costs consumers
about $9.5 billion annually.
fiscal 2017, the FTC received more than 4.5 million
complaints regarding robocalls and nearly another 2.6
million complaints about live callers. Consumers can
report unwanted calls at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
what to watch out for now:
call from a neighbor
always inclined to pick up the phone when you can see
the call is from your own area code even if you don’t
recognize the entire number.
scammers increasingly know how to manipulate caller
identification information to make it seem that the call
is from a local area code — even though the con
artists might be operating in another state or overseas.
use such spoofing to increase the likelihood that
consumers pick up the phone and to increase the consumer’s
trust in the call," according to a warning from the
Federal Communications Commission.
utility bill collector
aren’t just calling to demand money for unpaid tax
bills. Some scams have morphed into attempts to con
people into handing over money for fake utility bills,
pretending to be from DTE Energy convinced a Troy,
Mich., man to send $393 by threatening that his power
would be shut off in April.
man told Troy police that he knew he owed money to DTE,
so he followed the instructions given by the callers and
loaded money on a Green Dot MoneyPak card. Then the
consumer called the fraudster back and read him the
serial numbers for the MoneyPak card.
yet, the scammer called later that day to demand another
$893. And the consumer ended up being scammed out of
even more money.
money flow stopped once the scammer called to demand
$1,900 the next day because the callers claimed that
"previous payments did not go through." The
victim called DTE and was told it was a scam.
Lynch, chief security officer for DTE in Detroit, said
the phony utility collection calls are rampant across
the country, but typically don’t start out with a
starts out with a real person and they call and say, ‘We’re
going to shut off your lights in two hours unless you
pay this money,’ " Lynch said.
addition to collection calls, consumers are getting hit
with other utility-related robocalls.
19 million such utility-scam calls were made in March
relating to a pitch involving "save money — need
your info," according to YouMail.
scam: A robocall may suggest a program that can pay your
utility bills at a discount if you wire money elsewhere
first, instead of paying your utility directly.
a bad idea," said YouMail CEO Alex Quilici via
are now using telephone numbers that are spoofed to look
like they’re from the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers
to trick taxpayers into paying nonexistent bills,
according to the Internal Revenue Service.
artists have programmed their computers to display the
TAC phone number to appear on the taxpayer’s Caller
a taxpayer questions whether the call is real, the con
artist directs the taxpayer to the IRS.gov site to
"confirm" that the call is from a legitimate
number for a local TAC office.
the taxpayer has "verified" the call number,
the fraudsters resume their demands for money —
typically on a prepaid card or a gift card.
use of a prepaid card or a gift card enables a fraudster
to practically immediately transfer money from the card
purchased by the consumer onto another card held by the
crooks. Think of it like transferring two or three
Starbucks gift cards onto your Starbucks gold rewards
than 43 million robocalls were made in March alone
relating to IRS-related scams — nearly doubling from
February, according to YouMail’s research.
of how authentic the caller ID might look, the IRS warns
that taxpayers should never fall for unreasonable
the contact from the IRS is threatening in any way,
demanding immediate payment, and demanding payment by a
particular method it’s not the IRS," said Luis
Garcia, an IRS spokesperson in Detroit.
0 percent credit card offer
123 million robocalls were made in March with a promise
to get your credit card rates down to 0 percent. It was
the most frequent scam robocall in March, according to
you’ll hear from "Heather in Account
Services" or maybe someone from "Card Member
some scams, you might be asked for an up-front fee to
get the ball rolling on those lower rates. In another
twist, scammers promising a low rate might ask you to
read off your credit card number first to them over the
phone to verify the card.
pay the fee or hand over your credit card information to
to the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule prohibit
companies that sell relief services like these rate
reduction scams on the phone from charging a fee before
they settle or reduce your debt.
better bet? Call the credit card company directly to
request a reduced rate.
word can make a questionable investment seem less
suspect — guarantee.
the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA,
warns that impostors have been posing as securities
regulators and offering ironclad investment guarantees
in a phony pitch to buy up virtually worthless shares of
often send investors "official-looking documents,
complete with logos and seals" as part of the ploy
to make their stock buyback pitch look more legitimate.
some cases, the con artists want personal information
that can be used for ID theft. Or they might ask for an
advance fee to handle the sale of some stock.
you send the money, you never see it — or any of the
money promised from the stock buyback — again,"
has a toll-free number for senior investors who have
concerns about their brokers and investments, as well as
questions about potential scams.
hotline: 844-574-3577. The phone is staffed from 9 a.m.
to 5 p.m. ET on weekdays.
con artists are able to share lists of names and phone
numbers, as well as some financial holdings of potential
victims. So they might be able to sound legitimate.
financial fraudsters are more than willing to make
repeated phone calls, too.
up. Do not engage. Do not respond.
risk of being scammed goes up when you answer some of