Scams

Scammers will pretend to be a credible person or agency in order to convince you to give money or personal information.  Click below to learn about the different types of scams.

Scammers might target the elderly by pretending to be a grandchild in some kind of trouble.  These scammers have been known to use information gleaned from the actual grandchild’s social media to help them appear more legitimate and fool their victim.  Once victims are convinced that they are speaking with their grandchild, the scammers explain the situation they need help with.  Common examples include reports that the grandchild is in jail and needs bail money or needs money for a medical bill.  Victims are often told the situation is urgent and that money needs to be sent right away.

Should you receive such a call, the best way to verify the situation is to contact your grandchild directly or to talk to another family member.  If an unverified caller ever cautions you to keep a conversation secret, you should proceed with caution as this is a common indication of a scam.

Typically, a scammer will call to report that an individual has outstanding taxes due and stands to suffer severe repercussions if they remain unpaid.  Threats of arrest, license suspension, or deportation are often made and payment of the supposed debt is usually demanded on short notice (perhaps by day’s end or within a certain number of hours.)  These scams are especially prevalent around tax season.

This is one of the easier scams to spot simply because the IRS will never contact an individual by phone, email, or text demanding that a payment be made on short notice.  Any individual delinquent in their taxes will generally receive a bill through the mail from the IRS before any other action is taken.

You can verify whether you have a payment issue with the IRS by calling them directly at: 1-800-829-1040

For more information on these types of scams, visit the IRS website.

If you receive a call from someone who identifies themselves as a US Marshall or other law enforcement agent and threatens you with arrest for having missed jury duty then you are certainly dealing with a scammer.  These scammers usually present bogus credentials, such as a badge number, and use spoofed phone numbers to appear legitimate.  Scammers will tell their victims they can avoid prosecution by paying a fine.  Payment is usually demanded on very short notice and victims are instructed to pay via gift card, reloadable credit card, or wire transfer.

Scammers are well practiced at scaring their victims into sending money, but the reality is that no government entity would ever threaten you with arrest over the phone.

For more information on these types of scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

This is a type of confidence scam that occurs when an individual is persuaded to send money to an individual they have built a rapport with online.  These scammers frequently create bogus profiles on dating or other social networking websites to find their victims.  It is common for these scammers to claim they are located far away, perhaps saying they are traveling for business or are in the military.

Once they have gained the trust of a victim, perhaps over weeks of regular correspondence, the scammer will ask for money.  The reasons scammers give for this vary, but some common examples include them wanting to buy a plane ticket to visit the victim or because they have suffered some financial setback.  Once a scammer has received some money they will usually continue to ask for more until their victim catches on to the ruse.

Another common tactic includes using sensitive information you have sent (photos, conversations, etc.) against you.  The scammer may threaten to publicize the sensitive information, or another scammer may claim that the person you developed a rapport with was a minor, and threaten to contact law enforcement unless you immediately pay.  The best way to avoid this tactic is to avoid sending sensitive information.

As with other scams perpetrated from long-distance, scammers will request payment be sent in a manner difficult to track.  This might be via gift cards, reloadable credit card, wire transfer, or through a payment app on a computer or phone.  Funds sent in these ways are usually not recoverable.

Scammers behind these calls may masquerade as representatives of legitimate tech companies, commonly Microsoft or Apple, and report that they have discovered some malfunction within an individual’s computer.  The perpetrators in these cases may be after a number of things.  Some request payment for tech support services supposedly rendered, though most attempt to trick a victim into allowing them remote access to the victim’s computer.  Once allowed inside, a scammer may hunt for personal information with which to commit some form of identity theft, install a virus, or lock the victim out of their computer and demand payment to unlock it.

If requesting payment, scammers will usually ask that you send the funds to them in a manner difficult to track.  Most commonly, they will instruct you to make payment via gift cards, reloadable credit card, wire transfer, or through payment apps on your computer or phone.  In some cases, victims have been persuaded to wire funds outside the country.  Unfortunately, in these cases it is often impossible to pinpoint the location of the scammer or for victims to recover their money.