During the past week, the temperature and my temper were rising at the same time. Most of my correspondence these days is via email so it was a surprise to hear the phone ring so frequently. Being roused from my cool spot to find out about the cruise I won or hearing aid I needed gave me a clue that the scammers are not on vacation. I hied (yes, it’s a word) myself to the Maine Attorney General’s web page to brush up on the latest scam news. Here is some of it:
Computer fix scams
These scams usually involve a phone call from someone claiming to work for Microsoft or another well-known company who indicate they’ve been looking at your computer and have noticed dangerous software popping up. Another version tries to persuade you that your computer has a serious technological problem that needs immediate repair.
In both instances the fraudsters want you to give them remote access to your computer. By doing so you give them free rein to your personal information and the ability to download malware and spyware on to your computer, and they will probably lock your computer and ask for a ransom in order to get the code to unlock it. If you get this call hang up. If you are contacted via pop up or email about these things, delete them. Never give someone you don’t know access to your computer.
Caller ID fake-outs
Technology exists that criminals use to make any number appear on your caller ID. It’s called spoofing. Sometimes the scammers use your own number. Always be on the alert that the person you think is calling could be just a way to get you to answer the phone.
Credit card rate scam
This scam usually begins with an automated phone call. A message will state that the call is coming from a company with a name like “card services,” “card holder services” or “credit card services.” You’ll be told that you can lower your interest rate. The caller then requests your credit card number, social security number or other personal information. Never give out your credit card or bank account information based on an automated phone call.
Many Maine seniors have received phone calls claiming to be from Medicare or from the “health office.” The callers ask for the Mainer by name and appear to be offering seniors some sort of supplemental health insurance or prescription coverage. Never give any personal information to anyone over the phone. Consumers with questions about Medicare can get more information from the Medicare offices at 1-800-MEDICARE.
Fake check scams
Fake check scams often originate through email. Whatever the set-up, the bottom line is if someone you don’t know sends you a check but wants you to wire money back, it’s a scam. Be skeptical. There is no legitimate reason for you to wire money back to someone who has paid with a check. If you think you are a victim of a scam you should contact the FTC 1-877-FTC-HELP, your local post office and the Maine Attorney General’s Office: 800-436-2131.
Someone calls you on the phone indicating that they are from the government and that the government wants to give you a government grant. They just need your bank account numbers to deposit the check. Don’t be fooled. The government doesn’t call people to give money away.
Advance fee loan
The scammers claim they can obtain a loan for you but you have to pay in advance. They may give a U.S. address, but the address is bogus. They often want you to wire the advance fee to Canada. They tell you that once they receive the fee, they will deposit the loan proceeds into your bank account. You keep looking for the promised loan to show up in your bank account. The scammers then may tell you they need more money to insure the loan. You may end up sending more money. Again, the loan proceeds do not show up in your account. They promise you a refund within a couple of weeks once you tell them you want to cancel. Eventually, they will not accept any calls and the phone number may no longer be in use. You have been taken for hundreds of dollars. Remember, once you get on a scam list, they will call you again and again.
Phishing is a term that means getting your personal information by deception and using the information to steal your identity. A common phishing scheme comes through your email and disguises itself as a bank that needs to update your personal information. No matter how legitimate the message looks, never send personal information over the internet unless you initiate the contact.
For more information or to report a suspected scam, you should contact the Maine Attorney General’s Office, 800-436-2131 and/or your local police department.
Kay Soldier welcomes reader ideas for column topics of interest to seniors. She can be reached by email at [email protected], or write to 114 Tandberg Trail, Windham, ME 04062.