Phone scammers continue to call citizens of Logan and Champaign County and surrounding areas asking for personal information. Law enforcement reminds the public NOT to give these details over the phone. Anyone receiving these types of calls should call the Bellefontaine Police Department at 599-1010 (if you live in the city) or the Logan County Sheriff’s Office at 599-3333 (county residents).
So how do you recognize a phone scam?
Phone scams come in many forms, but they tend to make similar promises and threats or ask you to pay in specific ways. Here’s how to recognize a phone scam.
THERE IS NO PRICE
The caller may say that you have been “selected” for an offer or that you have won the lottery. But if you have to pay to get the prize, it’s not a prize.
YOU WILL NOT BE ARRESTED
Scammers may pretend to be law enforcement or a federal agency. They might say you will be arrested, fined, or deported if you don’t pay your taxes or another debt immediately. The goal is to scare you into paying. Law enforcement and federal agencies will not call you or threaten you.
YOU DON’T NEED TO DECIDE NOW
Most legitimate companies will give you time to think about their offer and get written information about it before asking you to commit. Take your time. Don’t force yourself to decide on the spot.
THERE ARE NEVER GOOD REASONS TO SEND MONEY OR PAY WITH A GIFT CARD
Scammers will often ask you to pay in a way that will prevent you from getting your money back – by transferring money, putting money on a gift card, prepaid card, top-up card in cash or using a money transfer app. Anyone asking you to pay this way is a scammer.
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES WILL NOT CALL TO CONFIRM YOUR SENSITIVE INFORMATION
It’s never a good idea to give sensitive information like your Social Security number to someone who calls you out of the blue, even if they say they’re with the Social Security Administration or the ‘IRS.
Examples of common phone scams
Any scam can happen over the phone. But here are some popular angles that phone scammers like to use:
Scams by imposters
A scammer is pretending to be someone you trust: a government agency like the Social Security Administration or the IRS, a family member, a lover, or someone claiming there’s a problem with your computer. The scammer may even show a fake name or number on your caller ID to convince you.
DEBT RELIEF AND CREDIT REPAIR SCAMS
Scammers will offer to lower your credit card interest rates, fix your credit, or get your student loan forgiven if you pay their company a fee first. But you could end up losing your money and ruining your credit.
BUSINESS AND INVESTMENT SCAMS
Callers may promise to help you start your own business and give you business coaching, or guarantee big profits from an investment. Don’t take their word for it. Learn about the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule and learn about investment opportunities from your state securities regulator.
Scammers like to impersonate charities. Scams asking for disaster relief donations are popular over the phone. Always consult with a charity before donating, and don’t feel pressured to donate immediately over the phone before making a donation.
EXTENDED CAR WARRANTIES
Scammers find out what kind of car you drive and when you bought it so they can trick you into buying overpriced or worthless service contracts.
A caller might promise a free trial, but then sign up for products — sometimes many products — for which you’re billed each month until you cancel.
Loan scams include advance loan scams, where scammers target people with bad credit histories and secure loans or credit cards for an upfront fee. Legitimate lenders don’t make such guarantees, especially if you have bad credit, no credit, or bankruptcy.
The caller is targeting older citizens claiming their grandchild is in jail and money needs to be wired to get them released.
U.S. MARSHAL OR OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT WARRANTY ASSURANCE
Another scam involves the caller posing as a law enforcement officer informing you of a warrant for your arrest. No law enforcement agency will call you to let you know.
Prize and lottery scams
In a typical scam, the caller will say you’ve won a prize, but then tell you that you have to pay taxes, entry fees, or shipping to get it. But after paying, you find out that there is no price.
TRAVEL SCAMS AND TIMESHARE SCAMS
Scammers promise free or low-cost vacations that can end up costing you in hidden fees. And sometimes after paying you find out that there is no vacation. In timeshare resale scams, scammers lie and tell you that they will sell your timeshare – and may even have a buyer lined up – if you pay them first.
How to stop scam calls
JUST HANG UP
Even if it’s not a scammer, when a company calls you illegally, it’s not a company you want to do business with. When you receive an automated call, do not press any number. Instead of letting you talk to a live operator or removing you from their call list, it could lead to more robocalls.
CONSIDER CALL BLOCKING OR CALL TAG
Scammers can use the Internet to make calls from all over the world. They don’t care if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry. That’s why your best defense against unwanted calls is call blocking. The type of call blocking or call tagging technology you use depends on the phone, whether it’s a cell phone, a traditional landline phone, or a home phone that makes calls over the Internet ( VoIP). Find out what services your phone company offers and search online for expert advice. For cell phones, you can check reviews of different call blocker apps in your online app store.
DON’T TRUST YOUR CALLER ID
Scammers can make any name or number appear on your caller ID. This is called spoofing. So even if it appears to be a government agency like the Social Security Administration calling, or the call is from a local number, it could be a scammer calling from anywhere in the world.
What to do if you have already paid a scammer
Scammers often ask you to pay in a way that makes it difficult to get your money back. Regardless of the payment method you used to pay, the sooner you act, the better.
If you paid a scammer with a credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your credit card company or bank immediately. Tell them what happened and request a “chargeback” to reverse the charge.
If you paid a scammer with a gift card, prepaid card, or cash top-up card, contact the company that issued the card immediately. Tell them you paid a scammer with the card and ask if they can refund you. The sooner you contact them, the better the chance they can get your money back.
If you paid a scammer by transferring money through companies such as Western Union or MoneyGram, call the company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint.
Call the Claims Department:
MoneyGram at 1-800-MONEYGRAM (1-800-666-3947)
Western Union at 1-800-325-6000
Request the cancellation of the bank transfer. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s important to ask.
If you paid a scammer using a money transfer app, contact the company behind the app. If the app is linked to a credit or debit card, contact your credit card company or bank first.
If you’ve given a crook remote access to your computer, update your computer’s security software. Then run a scan and remove anything it identifies as a problem.
If you give your username and password to a scammer, change your password immediately. If you use the same password for other accounts or sites, change that too. Create a new strong password.
If you gave a scammer your Social Security Number (SSN), visit IdentityTheft.gov to learn how to monitor your credit report to see if your SSN is being misused.
If someone calls you and offers to “help” you get back the money you’ve already lost, don’t give them any money or personal information. You are probably dealing with a fake refund scam.