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Don't Fall Victim to These Common Phone and Email Scams

We are looking at you North Carolina, much like Ohio, the seniors in North Carolina have been the target of phone scammers. Phone and internet scams use current headlines like COVID-19 vaccines and tax season to steal your money. That’s why state leaders hope to make seniors more aware of those and other high-tech threats aimed at their savings.

In a March 1 phone conference, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall offered their expert advice to AARP members in the state. One caller expressed her frustration about the number of phone calls she receives outside of friends and family. "For those of us who are on Do Not Call lists, this is even more aggravating," she said.

So we have decided to do our part and compile the list of the most common phone scams targeting people in North Carolina. This is what we have discovered - 

The COVID -19 related scams - yes still

It is important to take notice that government agencies such as the FBI and reputable news outlets have reported a rise in pandemic-related scam calls, from those selling non-existent COVID-19 home-testing kits to fraudulent “Coronavirus” cleaning services. Amazing what people are up to. Not to mention that there are scammers pretending they are from the CDC and asking for donations ( just so you know, no government agency, not the CDC or the IRS, will call you up, and as for your data, your money).

With the Delta Variant on the rise and with it the stress and the fear of everyone, the scammers are choosing the prime time to act and use the fear we have against us. Telephone scammers are trained to use your own fears against you – it is all about emotional manipulation. Of course, the current COVID -19 situation has got all of us on the defense, and no one feels particularly safe, and that is exactly what the scammers are counting on. So, the most important thing you can do is keep a cool head, trust official sources, and verify any and all information coming your way. That way, when the scammers call, you will know that what they are saying is simply not viable.

So if you get a Covid - 19 related type of call, asking for money or your data, just hang up, use the North Carolina white pages search to check the number, and once you are convinced it is a scam just report it. It is the safest way to go about it. 

“Can you hear me?” scam is back 

If this is the first question you hear on the other side of the line, just hang up and do not answer it. The trick behind this scam is simple scammers are looking for a specific answer. According to Eva Velasquez, CEO, and president of Identity Theft Resource Center - “By getting you to answer ‘yes’ to that one question at the very beginning of the call—as opposed to somewhere in the middle of the conversation, where dubbing would be more obvious—scammers can record your affirmative answer.”

The fact of the matter is that the idea behind the scam itself is them being able to use that recording to claim you agreed to pay for some scam program. The easiest way to avoid this situation, even if it looks like the call is from someone you know, is to change the format of the answer from “Yes” to “I hear you just fine” just to be on the safe side.

The DHS OIG Hotline scam

This particular scam deals with the U.S. government. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has had to issue a fraud alert to warn citizens that the DHS OIG Hotline phone number is being used as part of a telephone spoofing scam. This one does not discriminate and targets individuals in all parts of the US

Now, how does it work?

The scammer pretends to be an employee with U.S. Immigration and alters the caller ID system to make it appear as if the call is coming from the DHS OIG hotline number (1-800-323-8603). Now comes the bad part, this caller will ask you to verify your personal information through numerous tactics. The most common one is quite simple; they inform you that you are a victim of identity theft and need to check your information, including claiming they are victims of identity theft.

Why this is in no way a possible scenario- well, first, the DHS OIG does not use its hotline number to make outgoing calls it is just for receiving information. So, if you get the call from this particular number, you can immediately define it as fake.  So just report it and blacklist it.

The elderly in North Carolina are not immune to the ‘grandparent scam’

A grandparent’s love for their grandchildren is immeasurable, and sadly that is what the scammers are counting on. This is truly one of the most despicable telephone scams currently in existence. Not only does it target the elderly, but it does so in a really gruesome way.

The scam itself has a fairly straightforward plot; the person on the other line will pretend to be the grandson or granddaughter of the older victim. They’ll then concoct a story ending with a request for immediate financial assistance. Often, tricked seniors will end up sending money via wire transfer to the scammers as a result. That is such emotional abuse, not to mention a very serious crime.

It is essential for you to have a talk with your elderly about this. Explain that in case you are truly in dire straits, you will use a specific code word so that they know it is really you and not someone pretending to be you. Advise them to hang up the phone and call either their children or grandchildren to verify the situation. Under no circumstances should they send money without verification.

So there you have it, now that you know of them, make sure you don’t fall for them. But more importantly, make sure that the most vuneravble members of your family don’t fall for them. 

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