Hackers. Fraudsters. Shysters. No matter what name society has given them they’ve been around since time immemorial, banking on the fact (pun intended) that there’s a sucker born every minute.And while each of us likes to think that we would not be gullible enough to fall for the scam de jour, statistics tells us otherwise. In fact, each year more than 2.5 million Americans file fraud complaints to the tune of more than $1.7 billion. And that’s just what gets reported. An oldie but goodie scam--the phone fraud scam--is making the rounds again, updated, of course, to reflect current terms. Regardless, the basic format is the same: Fraudster calls up a potential victim, claiming to be from a legitimate organization and either demands money or offers to help … for a price.
Take for example the IRS scams that were making the rounds earlier this year. Criminals posing as IRS officials were calling taxpayers, demanding that they pay their taxes immediately or risk being arrested--or even deported. Scammers were able to spoof their phone numbers so they would appear on any Caller ID as coming from the IRS. Add in a few extra details, such as fake badge numbers, official-sounding titles and legitimate-looking emails and sooner than you can say “tax refund,” these scammers were able to bilk victims out of more than $23 million dollars.
Phone fraud scams aren’t limited to government entities, however. Fraudsters claiming to be Microsoft security experts have been burning up the wires, offering to fix virus-infected PCs. In each instance, the so-called expert calls up the victim, asking for them by name and purporting to be from Microsoft or another legitimate tech company. The scammer will claim that your PC or laptop has been infected by malware but that if you allow them to take over control of your laptop or download a “fix” (in reality, the aforementioned malware) they can repair it. In either instance, they are able to gain access to your personal data and move on to bigger crimes.
Unrelated but nevertheless successful, so-called one-ring scams are making a comeback. Here, mobile phone users will receive a call from what appears to be a domestic number. The incoming call will typically disconnect after one ring, and because consumers believe the call is from the US, will often call back. And here’s where the scam comes in. Return calls are instead routed to an international hotline that charges a connection fee, in addition to any per-minute fees for however long they are able to keep the consumer on the phone. Unwitting consumers are none the wiser until they get their phone bill. Popular area codes include “809,” 284” and “876.”
Even as fraudsters are being forced to up their games to stay ahead of the law enforcement, old school scams are making resurgence with phone fraud scams leading the pack. To protect yourself, and your wallet, keep these tips in mind when answering unsolicited calls from people purporting to need your personal information.
- We’re from the government; we’re here to help. Legitimate companies will never make unsolicited calls to ask you for money. If you receive such a call, hang up. If you’re still questioning the validity of the call, find the company contact details on line and call them yourself. Any legitimate business will want to know that fraudsters are perpetrating crimes under the guise of their brand.
- Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away. Be alert to scare tactics and high-pressure situations. Fraudsters will use threats to try and convince potential victims that they need to act immediately in order to prevent the worst from happening (such as viruses or malware wiping your system clean) unless you allow them to take over your computer and regain control. Don’t fall for it. Hang up.
- Let’s get personal. Never, ever share your personal information with anyone you don’t trust, especially anyone making an unsolicited call.
- Fool me once. Fraudsters have the ability to mask the incoming number, making it appear to come from a legitimate organization such as Easy Solutions, Microsoft or even the IRS. Further, they can provide seemingly valid call back numbers. Be on alert and report such calls immediately to the company the criminals are impersonating.
- Old dogs, new tricks. If they think they have a chance of success, fraudsters will continue calling. Be sure to change any passwords you think may have inadvertently been shared. The same goes for bank logins.
We have recently been notified of isolated instances involving someone impersonating Easy Solutions employees. Please be aware that our representatives will never directly call or email you asking for personal information. We care about your security and reporting fraud helps us fight criminal activity. If you suspect someone is fraudulently representing Easy Solutions, please let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org