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Learn How To Spot Impostor Scams
Calls from impostor scammers can be very upsetting to people who receive them.
Impostors may pose as people in authority
– IRS agents, court officials, police, debt collectors or attorneys – and they usually claim their intended victim is about to be arrested or taken to court. Scammers also may pose as a victim’s relative
(a grandchild, for example) and claim to need bail money to get out of jail after an accident.
It’s not just older people who get scammed by impostors.
New graduates have been scammed by bogus debt collectors demanding payment on student loans, and middle-aged victims have lost thousands of dollars apiece to IRS scams.
The con artists who make these calls are often pros, and they can be convincing actors. Scammers posing as a grandchild may sob as they plead for help. Bogus IRS agents may invent case or badge numbers to sound more official.
Scammers want people to panic, because panic interferes with their ability to spot red flags. It also makes them more likely to agree when scammers suggest they can immediately resolve the problem by paying with a money wire or iTunes gift card.
Know the facts:
- No legitimate government agency or debt collector accepts payments through iTunes gift cards or money wires.
- The IRS never initiates enforcement actions or collections by phone. The IRS will never call you to threaten you with arrest. IRS collections begin with a letter, not a phone call.
- Debt collectors cannot arrest you or threaten you. If a legitimate debt collector calls you, it must send you a written notice telling you about the debt within five days. It can’t take any further action against until it sends this letter.
- If you read the numbers on an iTunes gift card to someone, he or she has enough information to sell the card. Never read iTunes or prepaid card numbers to anyone.
Scam-proof your family:
- Share facts about impostor scams with your family.
- Make sure everyone in the family – especially older relatives – have all family members’ current cell numbers. Many people have avoided being scammed because texted and found the grandchild they feared was in jail is actually safe at home or work.
- Assure your relatives it’s always OK to ignore callers’ pleas for secrecy. A bogus grandchild’s plea not to tell mom and dad or a phony court official’s contention that there’s “a gag order” is a ploy to keep you from checking out the caller’s story.
- Tell family members to always get a second opinion if they receive an upsetting call demanding money. Not sure where to turn? Have them call the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs.
- Don’t chastise victims or beat yourself up because you believed a scam call. Instead, fight back by reporting fraud or attempted fraud:
- * Report automated scam robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission or 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
- * If you spoke to a scammer at length, contact the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs (216-443-7035).
The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.