Here are seven actual scam phone pitches we’ve logged recently at the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline, with names and details changed to protect individuals’ privacy. Can you detect the signs that they are fraudulent? Remember: Impostor fraud, in which criminals pretend to be law enforcement, government officials or other authorities, is now the number 1 type of consumer scam in America. The better you are at detecting it, the safer you become.
Scenario 1: “Hello, is this Mrs. Perl? This is Bill from Genetic Testing Services. Your doctor reached out to us because he is concerned with the cancer that runs in your family and would like you to take a DNA swab test. This test is covered by Medicare, and we just need your Medicare number to process and ship out the order.”
Advice: Hang up ... when you hear any request for your Medicare number. This is a scam aimed at billing Medicare for unnecessary tests, many of which it does not cover.
Scenario 2: “Good morning, this is Apple Inc. We are calling to tell you there is a problem with your phone, and someone has placed malware on it. We will need you to download AnyDesk onto your phone so we can help you.”
Advice: Hang up ... when anyone you do not know thoroughly asks for remote access to your phone. Scammers are looking to steal personal information for identity theft or fraud.
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Scenario 3 “This is Agent McMurphy from the IRS, and I am calling to inform you that you have a federal arrest warrant for not paying your taxes. Please press 1 on your keypad to be connected to my desk so we can clear up this matter.”
Advice: Hang up ... on any call that you believe is coming in as a computerized robocall. IRS employees will never demand money or threaten you over the phone. They may call to set up appointments or discuss audits, but only after trying to notify you by mail.
Scenario 4: “Nana, it’s me, Henry. I was away for spring break and got arrested because my friend was driving was drunk and we hit a pregnant woman! Please don’t tell Mom and Dad. I need your help.”
Advice: Hang up ... and reach out to your grandchild or another family member to check this out. This is almost certainly a form of the “grandparent scam,” which uses personal information about your grandchild gleaned from social media to fool you. Don’t panic and send money or reveal any banking or financial information.
Scenario 5: “Hello, sir, this is Amazon Security calling to inform you that there is an attempt to order items on your account. But don’t worry — we can help with the refund. I just need a few pieces of information from you to get this started.”
Advice: Hang up ... when asked for information to access your bank or other private accounts remotely. If you think there could be a problem, go directly to your Amazon account and contact the company directly through its website.
Scenario 6: “This is Denver Energy Company, and we are notifying you that you have missed your last two payments and unfortunately your electricity will be shut off by the end of today, unless you can pay immediately over the phone.”
Advice: Hang up ... when threatened over the phone, especially by a robocall. Utility shutoffs aren’t handled that way. You would get notification in the mail.
Scenario 7: “This is the Social Security Administration, and your Social Security check has been frozen due to fraudulent activity. Press 1 to take care of this matter.”
Advice: Hang up ... when any federal or state government official suggests you need to pay them money over the phone or asks for personal information during a call. That doesn’t happen.