It seems that every time I change my change my address, an instance where my number will be given out as a one-time op to a range of persons, a scam or number of scam phone calls soon follow. Due to the circumstances that surround a move, one expects to hear from contractors, and others who are trying to sell something. At first one thinks that the call is valid, perhaps random, maybe because some major life change such as selling a home or applying for Medicare has occurred, and the call somehow relates to that experience. Often the caller is so sincere and the line of inquiry seemingly valid that one begins to let one’s guard down and listen. That’s when the request for a donation, made by credit card, or the need to obtain one’s social security number is made followed by this writer simply hanging up then blocking that number. In this article we’ll cover the most popular ruses and what consumers can do to avoid falling prey to phone scammers.

Following a well-publicized event, con artists will to risk exposure will attempt to cash in. They will script their scam around a catastrophic event such as an earthquake, or hurricane, and create a name that sounds authoritative, such as an association with law enforcement or the military. How do they obtain your number? Anyone can buy a phone list that focuses on a specific demographic. While the companies that sell them are legitimate and they do keep records such as the name of the buyer, the veracity of the seller is not questioned.

Another way to obtain numbers is by creating a random programming script that simply dials a range of presets while the scammer sits phone in hand waiting for a potential victim to answer. Either way, when someone answers, the caller springs into action. Their voice is commanding, fast, and the message is quickly transmitted: “We are the American Benevolent Whatever Association, and we need your help. Your contribution will help the families of those who have been impacted by A Recent Catastrophic Event. You have been selected because we know you care about others. Here is your chance to help hundreds of people with a one-time contribution of…

The Government Does Not Call You; You Call the Government

Yet another popular scam is perpetuated by those who claim to be from the IRS, Social Security, or Medicare. Persons over 55 are generally the targets. The caller will claim that their future checks –usually the target person’s livelihood– are being withheld pending an investigation and to open a remediation ticket the caller needs their Social Security Number and/or a credit card to cover handling costs. The Government does not approach people in that manner and everyone is warned to be wary of any caller who identifies themselves as being from any Governmental organization. The Government advises that if approached in this manner, by a phone call, to simply hang up, and call their local agency office and report the call and provide the number, if possible.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), every year 11% of Americans or over 26 million of us fall victim to someone either calling or approaching targeted persons online. A proliferation of online and phone frauds have sprung up since the economic downturn of 2008 and seem to impact those who have lost their jobs or have incurred debt over the past two years. Also the demographics are slanted heavily towards non-Caucasians being approached, possibly due to the higher incidence of recent immigrants who might be more open to listening and complying with authoritative callers and messaging.

In case you’re interested, the FTC notes that while phone scams seem to follow a pattern of persons posing as government agency representatives, most online scams approach those seeking life changes. That’s why there is a proliferation of worthless products that tout their value as weight loss facilitators, sexual health rejuvenators, by claiming that the target has won a cash prize, or by someone posing as an authorized billing agent for buyer’s clubs or internet services, and let’s not forget those ‘get rich quick’ work at home programs.

The best advice is to be wary. There are legitimate work from home options, usually associated with major brands. Just approach any solicitation with a grain of salt and be wary. So if you answer the phone and do not recognize the caller, ask them to send you the information or just hang up. And as for online offers, remember that while hope springs eternal for all of us that there is no magic bullet nor overnight cure. That old adage was never more true: if it appears too good to be true, it probably is!