Thousands of people are bilked every year by criminals who enter the lives of their victims through their telephones. Not long ago, AARP found that about half of all mobile calls were fraudulent, and the problem was worsening. Fraudulent landline calls are declining as the technology fades, but scam calls to fixed lines still nab plenty of unsuspecting victims. And while seniors are often the target of scammers, anyone can be taken for a ride. Here’s everything you need to know about phone scams — including some that take advantage of evolving technology like QR codes, and others that use coronavirus fears to their advantage — and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Be Aware of the Latest Threats
Like any other fraud, phone scams evolve and change out of necessity once the public gets wise to the scam. This means there’s always a new scam on the horizon or an updated version of an old one. Here’s a look at some of the most current phone scams, according to the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and Justin Lavelle of BeenVerified, an online background check platform.
Imposter scams come in many forms and target a broad range of victim demographics. They all, however, work the same way. A scammer purporting to be someone you know or a representative from an organization you trust tries to trick you into giving them money in a phone-based scam.
QR Code Imposter Scams
Chances are you’ve been seeing more QR codes lately, even if you don’t know them by name. These barcode-like symbols that you scan with your phone have become increasingly popular during the pandemic, including with stores and restaurants who use them for quick order pickup or to launch virtual menus. But according to the FBI, cybercriminals are also using legitimate-looking QR codes to direct people to sites that can steal personal data or payments. One of the best ways to protect yourself: Thoroughly vet any website you’re directed to from a QR code, the FBI says. This includes by checking the URL, which shouldn’t include typos or other suspicious-looking information, and by avoiding using such websites for any form of payment.
IRS Imposter Scams
The now-common IRS phone scam, one of the most prevalent and anxiety-inducing imposter scams, is especially common around tax season. “When the call is answered,” Lavelle says, “the scammer says the IRS is suing you and you owe them money and [they] threaten to send the police if not paid within an hour. The latest phone scam even includes caller ID showing the letters ‘IRS’ when they call. The key to avoiding being hit by these scams is to know that the IRS does not make threatening phone calls, nor do they request wire transfers over the phone.” The FTC agrees, and cautions against ever paying a tax bill with a prepaid debit card, which the IRS would never request.
With the arrival of the coronavirus on U.S. shores, fraudsters rewrote their scripts to trick people with claims of a “cure” — long before there were vaccines and treatments — that could be fatal; as well as “setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information,” the FTC warned. Scammers dangled items such as face masks or hand sanitizer and, worst of all, suckered people in by claiming to be a charity, which hurts real charities that actually help people. The latest scam takes advantage of state-to-state COVID-19 vaccination confusion.
Source: Scammers are targeting your phone. Here’s what to watch for (msn.com)