Attorney General warns of summer phone scams

By WBNG News

Credit: MGN Online

Attorney General warns of summer phone scams

June 24, 2014 Updated Jun 24, 2014 at 1:17 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Senior citizens should be on the lookout for summer phone scams, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. On Tuesday, the Attorney general issued a consumer alert to raise awareness about potential scams.

The scams exist in many forms, but there are five specific scams that Schneiderman is warning seniors to lookout for.

Grandparent Scam:

Typically, this scam comes in the form of an urgent phone call. The caller claims to be "your favorite grandson" or just says "it's me," prompting the grandparent to supply the needed name. While the emergencies vary, the scenario is usually this: The "grandson" is out of town and needs money fast -- to make bail, or to pay for automobile repairs or medical expenses. The caller begs the grandparent not to tell his parents, just wire the money immediately. Scammers know that parents and grandparents fear a call that tells them their loved one is in trouble. Each year, thousands of Americans get caught in the Grandparent Scam. Increasingly, scammers use actual relatives' names and information gleaned from social media and other internet sites.

Jury Duty Scam:

The caller will claim to be an officer of the court and say there's a warrant for the arrest of the victim for failing to report for jury duty. The scammer will also claim that there is a fine for failing to show up for jury duty, and that unless the fine is paid immediately, the police will be sent to the victim's home to make an arrest. The scammer will request that the "Jury Duty Warrant" be paid with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram. The scam has been around for years and surfaces periodically in New York. In one recent case, the calls were traced to a Georgia prison.

Lottery Scam:

The caller says you've won a foreign lottery and requests that you, as the "winner," send a check or to wire money to cover taxes and fees. Legitimate contests never ask for money upfront. The caller may request your banking information in order to electronically direct deposit your winnings. This is an attempt to steal your identity and will wipe out your bank account.

The callers often use a name that sounds like a government agency or official-sounding authority. The name can be invented, like the "National Sweepstakes Bureau," or "The National Consumer Protection Agency." Sometimes they will use an actual name of a government agency, like the Federal Trade Commission. The scammers claim that the government "oversees" the integrity of foreign lotteries. This is a scam.

IRS Scam:

The caller will claim to be an agent or police officer from the Internal Revenue Service calling about a past due tax balance that is owed. The caller will tell the victim that unless the debt is paid immediately, a team of officers will come to the victim's home that day to arrest the victim. The scammer will also request that the "IRS Tax Warrant" be paid with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram. These scammers often use caller ID spoofing so that the victim's caller ID box says "Internal Revenue Service" or displays the phone number of the Internal Revenue Service.

Utility Scam:

The caller claims to be a representative of a local utility provider. In some cases, the scammer has the victim's correct account number. The scammer will then advise the resident that the utility bill is past due and must be paid immediately to avoid termination of service. The scammer will also request that the delinquent bill be paid with a Green Dot Card Money Card or Western Union MoneyGram. Suspects committing this scam have often obtained personal information via the internet, Facebook, Instagram or other social media.

“It’s estimated that fraud cost old Americans $2.9 billion in 2011 alone,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York State. “As society ages and people live longer this problem threatens to get worse.”

Schneiderman recommends that one never provides information over the phone unless he or she made the initial call. He reminds seniors that no legitimate caller will ever ask to keep the conversation a secret. It is also important to remember that if it is too good to be true, it probably is.

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