ROBOCALLS Telemarketing Phone Calls

ABOUT THOSE PESKY ROBOCALLS

Robocalls are designed to bait you into giving up your personal or financial information. Telemarketing fraud often begins with a Robocall. Unwanted calls are more than a mere annoyance – they are an invasion of privacy and a breeding ground for fraud and identity theft.

Robocalls broke a national record in March of this year (2018). Youmail.com reports that 3.15 billion Robocalls were placed in just the month of March alone. This is a 15% increase from the month before. This increase was driven by a big jump in telemarketing (up 19%) and scam calls (up 13%).

Consumer Reports estimates that Americans lose $350 million a year to scams involving Robocalls. Using today’s technology, tens of millions of Robocalls can be blasted out each day. We’ve all received these telemarketing pitches – like ‘Rachel from Cardholder Services’ or ‘Microsoft’ Imposters calling to warn you that you have a computer virus.

Robocalls
File a complaint with the FTC

MOST ROBOCALLS ARE ILLEGAL!

Only about 10% of Robocalls are actually legal and useful. Airlines can call to give flight updates. Schools can call to alert parents about closures. Doctors can call about appointment reminders. Also, non-profits, political and charitable organizations are allowed to call you too. Just beware of imposters!

Robocalls are usually autodialed or pre-recorded telemarketing calls. The scammers usually don’t know who they are calling and simply ignore the Do-Not-Call List. They oftentimes use prefixes that are the same area code that you live in and even use a phone number similar to yours – in the hopes that you’ll pick up the phone.

Don’t  believe what you see on Caller ID!

When these calls come in, your Caller ID usually displays “spoofed” (fake) phone numbers and/or “spoofed” names of legitimate organizations – like the IRS or a bank, or utility company.  Or, the Caller ID may show as “Unknown”. Robocallers often place their calls using internet technology that hides their location. From here on, you must never rely on what your Caller ID displays on your phone.

Robocalls Aren’t Going Away

Follow these tips to protect yourself from those pesky calls:

  • Don’t Encourage Them: If you are instructed to press a “key” to be taken off their list or to speak to an operator you are, in essence, logging your number as a working number. You will be targeted for even more annoying calls. Hang up without pressing any keys!
  • Don’t Engage: Don’t pick up if it’s a number you don’t recognize. Let it go to voicemail.
  • Block Robocall Numbers: Try contacting your phone service provider, but don’t pay extra for this type of service – since telemarketers change phone numbers often.
  • Forward any SPAM text messages to 7726 (or SPAM)
  • File a Complaint: This helps investigators detect & track patterns in Robocalls. Although most Caller IDs display numbers that are spoofed, report them anyway by calling the Federal Trade Commission at 888-382-1222 or go to ftc.gov/complaint
  • Sign the petition: at Consumers Union to help pressure Telephone Carriers to offer free call-blocking technology by going to: endrobocalls.org

 

ADDITIONALLY –  There’s an App for that

There are a number of apps that are free or for a small fee, will help prevent most, but not all Robocalls.

Here is the link for Android Phones: https://www.ctia.org/consumer-tips/robocalls/android-robocall-blocking

Here is the link for iPhones: https://www.ctia.org/consumer-tips/robocalls/ios-robocall-blocking

Here is a link for Landlines, that offers call blocking for free: https://www.nomorobo.com/

Interesting Factoids:

iPhone users get more robocalls than Android users. They received 29% more Robocalls than Android users, during the month of March. Also, AT&T users get more Robocalls than Verizon users.

Crooks who commit phone fraud are clever. They have to be – as this is the way they make their living. So, don’t engage with them. Instead – ALWAYS HANG UP ON ROBOCALLS OR LET YOUR CALLS GO TO VOICEMAIL!

SKIMMING DEVICES AT GAS STATIONS

SKIMMING DEVICES – ON THE RISE!

Security experts say that skimming devices, could be netting crooks as much as $3 billion a year in the US.  YES, you read that right – $3 billion!

Skimming devices are tiny electronic devices, installed by crooks, that read the personal information from a credit or debit card’s magnetic strip. The ones installed at a bank ATM machine, may also have a hidden camera that picks up the keypad clicks to steal debit card PIN numbers. The stolen information is then transmitted wirelessly to the thieves.

Most skimming devices are placed inside bank ATMs, where crooks insert the tiny devices to steal card data. Investigators are presently seeing a dramatic spike in skimmers being inserted into pay-at-the-pump panels at gas stations. A major contributing factor to this problem is that most gas stations apparently use the same master key codes on their pumps, making them easy prey for skimmer thieves.

In the past, crooks had to return to the ATM or gas pump to retrieve the skimming devices. Now they use Bluetooth technology. Known as blue-snarfing or blue skimming, crooks can sit 100 yards away while card info is transmitted right to their laptop. A single compromised pump can capture data from 30-100 cards a day.

Skimming Devices
REPORT IF SEAL IS BROKEN

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR:

Many of the compromised stations are those without proper security cameras and/or tamper-evident seals on their pumps. Off-brand filling stations and pumps closest to major streets or highways are the most targeted. Be on the lookout for an area wrapped in black or gray electrical tape. This type of electrical tape seems to be found in nearly all of the pay-at-the-pump skimming attacks. Some stations are placing security seals with a message saying “Please Report If Seal Is Broken”.

NOW THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

Skimming Devices are detected with a new app
This app will help detect them

The app is called “Skimmer Scammer”. It’s currently available for Android. You can download it on Google Play by clicking here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=skimmerscammer.skimmerscammer

The “Skimmer Scammer” app is a FREE open source gas pump skimmer detection app developed by SparkX. It detects common Bluetooth based skimmers – found mostly in gas pumps.  According to SparkX, “This app does not obtain or download data from a given skimmer, nor does it report any information to local authorities”.

Google Play’s description of the app says, “This app uses your phone’s Bluetooth radio to detect a common radio component in modern fuel pump skimmers (HC-05) and warn you if you’re about to get scammed”.

AVOID USING YOUR DEBIT CARD!

You should never use your debit card at a pay-at-the-pump panel at a gas station. Here’s why. If you use your credit card to buy gas and the credit card gets skimmed, the issuer will make good on most fraudulent purchases. However, if you use your debit card to buy gas and your debit card gets skimmed, the thief will use that information to gain access to your checking account.

Remember, your debit card is directly tied to the money in your checking account. Therefore, each transaction made, via your debit card, is withdrawn from the funds in your checking account.

Skimming thieves will use stolen debit card data and load that data onto a ‘white’ card (a counterfeit copy of the card). Then the ‘white’ card is used at bank ATMs to drain cash from the victim’s checking account.

You could suffer large losses if your card is skimmed and you fail to report the incident to your bank promptly. Additionally, while the bank is investigating your issue, you will not have access to any of the money in your checking account.

So, I repeat: Never ever use your debit card at a pay-at-the-pump panel at a gas station. It’s definitely not worth the risk of having your checking account completely cleaned out!

ONE MORE BAD PIECE OF NEWS:

Originally, new credit and debit card rules required all retailers to install EMV smart chip equipment to process card transactions by October, 2015, in order to avoid liability. Unfortunately, that requirement has been delayed until October 2020, for gas station pumps. That gives skimmer thieves almost 3 more years to steal card data from their victims.

The Grandparent Scam

I’m sure many of you have heard people talk about The Grandparent Scam. The telephone rings. You hear a frantic voice at the other end of the phone saying “Grandma” OR “Grandpa”?  Then you hear, “I’m in trouble and I need your help!”

Be aware that this scam has now morphed into the “Friends & Family Scam”.

So, it may not just be a phony grandchild supposedly in trouble. You may also be contacted by someone purported to be a friend or other family member – who is of course – just an Imposter.

Keep in mind that this scam may also come in the form of a frantic email or Facebook message you receive from someone posing as your friend or grandchild.

This has become an effective, lucrative and pervasive scam! It has bilked millions of dollars from loving, unsuspecting grandparents, family members and caring friends everywhere. The tactic used here – is to tap into your emotions.

Grandparent Scam Alert

 

HERE’S HOW THE SCAM GOES DOWN:

The imposter grandchild will claim to need immediate help, because they are in some sort of trouble. They’ll say they are out of town or out of the country. The call often comes late at night or early morning.

Sometimes, the scammer doesn’t know the name of the victim’s grandchild. The scammer may have tried to garner a name from social media or a public search. Or, when the call is made, you may respond by saying “Michael, it sure doesn’t sound like your voice”. Now you have given the imposter a real name.

If the scammer thinks you’re still not convinced that it’s really your grandchild calling, the phone is handed over to someone else who claims to be a police officer, a doctor, lawyer or official overseeing your grandchild. That’s the first Red Flag!

The imposter grandchild will plead with you to “Keep this a secret” and “Don’t tell Mom or Dad” – that’s the next Red Flag!

The imposter claims to have had suffered some kind of calamity. They had an accident, or they’ve been arrested, they’re injured, in the hospital, they were mugged, lost their passport, etc.  Next, they will ask you to send them money to help them get out of the jam they’re in. That’s the next big Red Flag!

The caller will give you instructions on how much money to send and where and how to send the money. They’ll usually ask you to pay by bank wire, Western Union or MoneyGram so they can pick it up quickly – in cash. They often use phony IDs, so it’s impossible to trace them. Once you send money using any of these methods, you have just kissed your money Goodbye!

WHAT TO DO TO AVOID BEING VICTIMIZED?

  • Resist the pressure to act quickly
  • Call the family, friend or grandchild directly to verify their whereabouts
  • Ask the caller a question that an Imposter couldn’t possibly answer
  • NEVER send money based on a request in an email or over the phone
  • If a medical problem is the ruse, call the real Hospital
  • If legal problems are the ruse, you can call the real Police

 

P.S.: When traveling abroad, you should visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs website and register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov . This program can help travelers with communications in an emergency situation.