At the BBB, we can tell when a new scam is hitting the area, especially if it’s unusual and alarming. Our phones ring off the hook with calls from concerned consumers, wondering if they are in trouble or even bound for jail!
This past week, we’ve had bunches of inquiries about three new scams. These three scams were all initiated via telephone calls received by consumers.
The first scam I want to talk about is called the “One Ring” or “Wangiri” scam. Several of my friends, as well as myself, have received these calls.
The scam is initiated when a consumer receives a phone call that is, so far, from either Sierra Leone in West Africa or Spain. The phone numbers from West Africa almost always originate from a 222 code, while those from Spain usually start with +34 902-5612 followed by two-digit numbers 30 through 35. However, the FCC says the numbers can come from anywhere. The scam works like this: Scammers place a robocall to your number and hang up after one or two rings. They often do this several times. Their plan is to get you to call the number back to discover why you keep receiving the calls. If you do call back the number, you will be duped into paying exorbitant long-distance fees to connect the call, with the scammer receiving a large kickback from the proceeds.
The FCC warns, “Do not call back the numbers you do not recognize, especially those appearing to originate from overseas.”
The second scam being reported by area consumers begins with a phone call supposedly from either the police or the “Social Security Department.” (The first tip off that the call was a scam. There is no “Social Security Department,” it’s the Social Security Administration.)
The caller tells the consumer that their Social Security number or credit card, along with drugs, had been found in an abandoned car in South Texas. During the investigation, the car was traced to a drug house, where additional information was gleaned, implicating the consumer in various crimes. When our consumers declined to give them personal information, the caller became aggressive and agitated, threatening the consumers with a lifetime suspension of Social Security benefits and criminal prosecution.
Fortunately, our consumer told the caller they were scammers and to not call back. These calls are happening all over the United States. In a similar call in Lubbock, Texas, scammers said a warrant had been issued for the arrest of the consumer but could be eliminated for $500. A common factor of these phone calls is that the fraudsters have foreign accents.
I first reported on the third scam in December of last year, but there’s been a big resurgence in fraudulent telephone calls to local senior residents recently. The scamming callers tell seniors that there’s been illegal, fraudulent or compromising activity on their Social Security account and that it’s been revoked, suspended, or canceled. This can be very upsetting to those seniors who depend on their Social Security income and benefits. They often readily “verify” vital Social Security information and send money to pay bogus fines and penalties in order to avoid arrest and prosecution.
Scam phone calls come in many forms, but in order to stay safe, exercise what I suggested in my last Lima News article — simply do not answer the phone call if you don’t recognize the number! And if you do, never, ever give any personal information or money over the phone.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.