Take 25 percent off the cost of the award-winning AARP Smart Driver online course! Use promo code ‘BHM’ for savings.
by Sid Kirchheimer, AARP Bulletin, July 19, 2010
Is your telephone ringing off the hook, with a seemingly endless barrage of calls that include “dead air” or prerecorded messages and advertisements? Consider those calls possible warnings of a new way to hijack your savings and investments.
In this scam, criminals use automated dialing programs to flood your landline and cellphones with calls. The intent, according to the FBI, is to tie up your lines while the crooks empty your bank and online stock accounts. That way, when the anti-fraud departments at your financial institutions try to call you to verify the transactions, they can’t get through and may let the transactions proceed.
In one case several months ago, a semiretired dentist in Florida lost $400,000 from his retirement account through such a scheme. After that, the FBI reports, there was a “noticeable surge” in this ruse, particularly in eastern states.
How it works
The scam begins with crooks targeting you for information about your financial accounts. They may send you an enticing link by e-mail or post one on a legitimate website. If you click on it, your computer becomes infected with malware, which may include a program known as a keystroke logger that gives crooks your account numbers and passwords. Or you may inadvertently supply such info yourself, by responding to calls or e-mails alleging to be from a government agency, or by telling too much about yourself on a social networking website trolled by crooks.
By knowing your name, age and address and employing some creative subterfuge, the crooks may be able to purchase your Social Security number at legitimate websites that service police departments, or companies doing background checks on prospective employees.
With the necessary personal data in hand, the scammers then pilfer your accounts, shielded by a barrage of automated calls to your phone lines. They may even alter your online accounts to a new phone number—in reality, the crooks’ own number—for “verification” of future transactions.
Here’s how to protect yourself if you get these multiple calls, most of them having no live voice:
A freeze is stronger, preventing access to your credit report. Until your report is “thawed, through a PIN access or by filing paperwork, neither you nor an identity thief can get credit in your name. This means that a freeze might not be the best route if you’re shopping for insurance, are moving and need utility service, or are planning to apply for a loan. Learn more about freeze policies in your state at a Consumers Union webpage.
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Get tips and resources to protect yourself from fraud and see the latest scam alerts in your state.
Members save 15% on in-store purchases of frozen yogurt, treats and apparel.
Exclusive program for members from The Hartford.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at