Telephone scams are everywhere and take a wide variety of forms. Some scams we've heard of include:
- Someone claiming to be a relative of yours is injured or stranded somewhere and needs money immediately
- Someone claiming to sell a product or service when there is no product or service at all
- Someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) telling you your taxes are overdue and must be paid immediately over the phone
Warrant For Arrest Scam
In Monroe County, for example, the Sheriff’s Office says people have been called by scammers claiming to be police and telling the victim he or she failed to appear for jury duty or missed a court date. To avoid arrest, they were told, they had to pay a fine in the form of prepaid gift cards.
Fearing arrest, the person would go buy the cards, then give the scammer on the phone the card numbers on them. The scammers then immediately use the cards and the victim is out the money.
In some cases, the scammers even used the names of real Sheriff’s Office officers and the Caller ID on the victim’s phone showed a local phone number – even a Sheriff’s Office number (that is called “spoofing”).
Keys Energy Services Scam
Keys Energy Services has in the past warned about a scam in which its customers are called by someone allegedly representing the Lower Keys utility and telling the victim his or her electricity will be shut off for bill delinquency and that the customer must immediately make a payment to avoid that. They are told to either give their credit card number over the phone or to wire the payment to what turns out not to be a Keys Energy account. Out of fear of no electricity, a victim might acquiesce and pay.
Tips to Identify Fraud
Following are ways to identify phone-fraud attempts and prevent becoming a victim:
- The easiest thing to do is just don’t answer a phone call coming from a number you don’t recognize. If the caller is legitimate, he or she will leave you a message. However, scammers often leave robo-messages, as well; delete those.
- If a caller claims a friend or relative is injured or stranded and needs money immediately, or a caller claims to be holding a friend or relative hostage and demands money, be skeptical. In such instances, callers try to keep you on the phone so you can’t try to verify the story before remitting money, and they speak very quickly.
- If a caller claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service and says you owe back taxes that must be paid immediately, it’s a scam. The IRS does not call people; it sends letters on official letterhead. The IRS does not require payment be made by a specific method, such as a wire transfer. The IRS does not threaten arrest for owing taxes.
- If a caller offers a service or product and the caller dodges questions about the company he or she purports to represent, it’s probably a scam.
- If a caller says you’ve won a prize such as cruise, then says to redeem it you need to pay a fee or pay shipping, it’s probably a scam. If you’ve really won a prize, there should be no strings attached.
- If you receive a call from someone saying he or she is from a utility and threatening to terminate your service unless immediate payment is made over the phone, get off the phone, call your utility and ask for the customer service department, which can check your account information.
- If you receive a phone call from someone saying he or she is a law officer or court officer and that you must make an immediate payment to avoid arrest, hang up and report the call to local police. Police agencies and courts don’t demand immediate payments for anything over the phone.
- Never give out your credit card information or bank information over the phone unless it’s to someone or a business you’ve dealt with before. Never give out your Social Security number over the phone.