ILLUSTRATION JOHN RITTER
FOR AS LONG as there have been telephones, there have been crooks trying to call and steal your money. What is new is the sheer volume of unsolicited calls that Americans endure each year — over 29 billion in 2016 alone by one estimate, including lots of potential rip-offs. No wonder fraud complaints have increased nearly 60 percent since 2010, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Scams are continuing to show up across the country this year.
The IRS scam
The voice on the other end of the line claims to be an IRS criminal investigator. Arrest is imminent if you don’t immediately pay thousands of dollars in back taxes. Individuals are instructed to put $500 on multiple iTunes gift cards and give up the 16-digit codes. Don’t be fooled. The IRS would never ask a taxpayer to buy iTunes cards for any reason.
Internet scam artists create little boxes that pop up on your computer screen, telling you that you have a virus and need to call for technical support. Don’t believe it. Computer companies never notify customers of a problem through pop-ups, unless it is from virus-protection software that you installed.
The Fake Sheriff
You get a call from someone posing as a sheriff’s deputy claiming you’ve missed jury duty and owe the county a $1,000 fine. Pay immediately, the caller says, or you will go to jail. Rest assured, no sheriff or court will call you and demand payment like this for missing jury duty. If you get this call, hang up, then call the police and report it.
A con artist calls and tells you that you have won the Australian (or Jamaican) lottery. All you have to do to collect is wire $1,500. Don’t do it. Lotteries never call to give money to people who haven’t even bought a ticket.
Credit Card Con
You get a call from your bank that there is a problem with your account. To straighten it out they need your account number, date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Hang up. This is a scam to get information to hack your account.
How to Stop Fraud
Next: Travel Trouble