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You’ve Got Mail, With Frank Abagnale

Frank breaks down how fraudsters try to scam you

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On this special episode of The Perfect Scam, Frank breaks down all the ways fraudsters try to scam you through voicemail and email by claiming to be everything from IRS agents to bank officials. Frank gives the skinny on each scam, who’s behind them, and what you should and shouldn’t do if you get a scam message. Plus, the show producers share their own voicemails from scammers.

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TIPS:  If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam or would like to report fraud call The Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360Anyone can become the victim of a scam, it’s important to be vigilant and know your vulnerabilities. For instance, if you are looking for a job you are more vulnerable to a work-at-home scam.

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Will Johnson: This week on AARP - The Perfect Scam.

[00:00:03] And once again expires after that, he will be taken under custody by the local police as there are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment.

[00:00:12] Now, I'm just trying to check in with you. I know we were trying to move forward with the insurance plan, just checking in to see if your card has been fixed for the down payment. Give me a ring back whenever you have a minute.

[00:00:26] MUSIC SEGUE

[00:00:26] Will Johnson: For AARP - The Perfect Scam Podcast, I'm Will Johnson. Welcome back listeners, and believe it or not, yes, you guessed right, I am here with the AARP's Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale. Hello Frank.

[00:00:37] Frank Abagnale: Hi, Will, good to be here.

[00:00:39] Will Johnson: We have a very special episode for our listeners here today. It's called, You've Got Mail with Frank, a brand new episode segment. Are you ready, Frank?

[00:00:46] Frank Abagnale: I'm ready.

[00:00:47] Will Johnson: Okay, we're basically going to go through some of our favorite voicemails and emails, so that's the "You've Got Mail" part, and uh get your feedback thoughts, comments, asides.

[00:00:57] Frank Abagnale: Sounds good.

[00:00:57] Will Johnson: Whatever you want to do, and then we're going to talk about some of our favorite scams that are going on out there today, not favorite in the sense that we like them, but favorite in the sense that we hate them, and to help us do all this, is our AARP Podcast producer, Julie Getz. Julie, it's great to have you here on the show.

[00:01:11] Julie Getz: It's always great to be on the show with you, Will.

[00:01:13] Will Johnson: Well, and I understand you are sharing with us some fraudulent emails and phone calls, things like that?

[00:01:18] Julie Getz: I am, and I'll tell you, I am really excited about this new segment that we have this season, and excited to hear uh what Frank has to say about all these scary voicemails left on our cell phones.

[00:01:28] Will Johnson: You seem to get uh, quite a few of those. I mean we all do.

[00:01:31] Julie Getz: I do, almost every single day.

[00:01:33] Will Johnson: It's nuts.

[00:01:34] Julie Getz: So I'm going to start with this one. This is, I'm just going to play it back.

[00:01:38] Will Johnson: Could you read your phone number on the air first, please, Julie?

[00:01:40] Julie Getz: My own cell phone?

[00:01:41] Will Johnson: I'm just kidding.

[00:01:43] Julie Getz: Well, you know, it's tricky though, it is from my, the area code that my cell phone's in, so the scammer was very sneaky.

[00:01:48] Will Johnson: The scammer's, right, so but it doesn't mean a thing, does it, Frank?

[00:01:51] Frank Abagnale: No, they do that on purpose so that you believe it's a local call from someone you know.

[00:01:55] Will Johnson: I don't like that. I get phone calls, the ones that, that trick me by the way, sorry, Julie, are the ones that mimic my own cell phone number. I don't know if you've ever seen or heard of this, but I've gotten some that look literally almost like a slight aberration on my number.

[00:02:08] Frank Abagnale: They can, as we always say, they can manipulate the phones very easily.

[00:02:12] Julie Getz: All right, so here we go, are you ready?

[00:02:14] "Hey, sorry I missed you. It's Rachel. I'm just calling to follow up on your business line of credit. It actually looks like I have you pre-approved for up to $250,000. Give me a call on the number that popped up on your caller ID. I'd really like to catch up and go over some of the rates and terms. Have a great day."

[00:02:27] Julie Getz: Right?

[00:02:28] Will Johnson: So...

[00:02:29] Julie Getz: Rachel?

[00:02:29] Will Johnson: This is great news from Rachel. Should Julie, Frank, should Julie call back?

[00:02:34] Frank Abagnale: Absolutely not.

[00:02:36] Julie Getz: But Rachel sounds so friendly, like we're best friends.

[00:02:39] Will Johnson: You've got a lot of money.

[00:02:40] Frank Abagnale: And Rachel uses your name for familiarity, and then she basically gives you the big pitch line, I'm going to give you $250,000, and you can understand that some people may even say, well this might be a scam, but I want to listen to them. I might be able to get the $250,000 on a loan from these people. Uh, but obviously those are just pitches that people make. Once they get you on the phone, they're really looking for information. So obviously if you were someone who did call back and say, yes, I'm absolutely interested in this, even if it was a smaller loan, 40,000, 20,000, then the next question, of course, well let me take your application over the phone; name, address, social security number, date of birth, credit card numbers, who do you bank with? What's your bank account number as you would in any credit application.

[00:03:24] Will Johnson: And Julie will be living on the Dark Web after this.

[00:03:26] Frank Abagnale: That's right.

[00:03:27] Julie Getz: Scary.

[00:03:28] Will Johnson: But, you know, I mean what's really interesting about hearing that, I think is she sounds quite personable, friendly, good, charming, whatever you want to say, I mean it's just underscores how good they are.

[00:03:42] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, and sometimes people are just hired to make these pitches, they don't even know what they're doing, they're just uh hired and said because they have a great voice and they sound real enthusiastic, and they just tell them, we're a company and we sell these loans. When we call we want just to have your voice on there that has the pitch, and then one of our people will come on and actually talk to them.

[00:03:59] Will Johnson: I wonder if they could actually like insert a name within hi, blank, I mean there must be technology...

[00:04:04] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:04:06] Will Johnson: Wow, so you didn't call back.

[00:04:08] Julie Getz: I didn't.

[00:04:09] Will Johnson: We should call them right now. No, I'm kidding.

[00:04:10] Julie Getz: I know, she did, she just sounded so friendly, right? Like ooh.

[00:04:14] Frank Abagnale: It's all part of it.

[00:04:15] Julie Getz: It's all part of it. Very tricky.

[00:04:17] Will Johnson: She says, uh call me at the number on your caller ID, clearly that's so, because the number's probably different for every single call that goes out there, like she doesn't say call me back at this number.

[00:04:27] Frank Abagnale: No, the number keeps changing with each call.

[00:04:30] Will Johnson: All right, Julie, we have another phone call, another voicemail, right?

[00:04:34] Julie Getz: Yes, I do, and this one is from one of our colleagues here at AARP Studios.

[00:04:39] "And once it again expires after that, you will be taken under custody by the local police as there are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment. We would request you to get back to us so that we can discuss about this case before taking any legal action against you. The number to reach us is, 845-423..."

[00:05:01] Will Johnson: Do you work closely with this person?

[00:05:04] Julie Getz: Yes.

[00:05:05] Will Johnson: She is in big trouble.

[00:05:06] Julie Getz: She is in big trouble, is right.

[00:05:09] Frank Abagnale: Well, the first...

[00:05:09] Will Johnson: Frank's got mail.

[00:05:12] Frank Abagnale: There was the first thing that put me off is that it's a computer generated voice, it's not a human being that's actually making that pitch. Um, and obviously any time you get the, you have to call immediately, you have to pay immediately, you have to act immediately, uh, that's the red flag that it is probably a scam.

[00:05:30] Will Johnson: Although the fear factor there is what would get to people. I mean...

[00:05:33] Frank Abagnale: Well yeah, you get a little bit apprehensive, and you might call back just out of curiosity to see what their pitch is, uh, but again, you don't want to be giving them any information.

[00:05:42] Julie Getz: Oh man.

[00:05:43] Will Johnson: You have another one?

[00:05:43] Julie Getz: I do.

[00:05:44] Will Johnson: Okay, let's hear it.

[00:05:45] "Hey Gretchen, this is Stewart. This is Andrew giving you a call from the David Munson Agency. I'm just trying to check in with you. I know we were trying to move forward with the insurance plan, just checking in to see if your card has been fixed for the down payment. Give me a ring back whenever you have a minute and you have a great day.

[00:06:01] Will Johnson: The kind of like, ah shucks, local yocol lingo is what they're, what gets people, I think, and, and they go for more and more, as opposed to the robo-call.

[00:06:11] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, and they, depending on where they're calling, they're calling somewhere in the Midwest and they speak like a Midwesterner, they're speaking to somebody in New York, they speak like a New Yorker, uh anything to get your confidence, and again, all of it comes back down to getting you to give them some information. So that's the red flag. Even if you would have called back, the minute they'd started asking you those personal questions, that's when you need to hang up and so it's, it's really not that difficult. I remind people all the time...

[00:06:39] Will Johnson: Not to you, but for the rest of us.

[00:06:41] Frank Abagnale: No, but I remind people all the time that if you make it easy for someone to steal from you, it's unfortunate, but chances are they will. So you don't make it easy.

[00:06:51] Will Johnson: Hey, Julie, this is Will. Just calling about your social security card. I've got it, but I want to make sure it's you. If you can just read it to me. All right, joining us now is Brook Ellis, another of our scam busters here at AARP. Hi, Brook.

[00:07:07] Brook Ellis: Um, here's a message I got. For some reason I get only scam calls on my work cell phone.

[00:07:13] Will Johnson: Really.

[00:07:14] Brook Ellis: Yeah. Un--, unless it's somebody calling me back who I've reached out to, anything else that's incoming is a scam call.

[00:07:20] Will Johnson: Because, as a younger person, you don't call anyone anymore, do you?

[00:07:24] Brook Ellis: Well, it's my work cell, so I actually do call people, but on my personal phone, I don't get any. On the work phone, that's all that there is.

[00:07:32] Will Johnson: Got it, got it. I was just assuming that young people only text.

[00:07:35] Brook Ellis: Oh, eh, I'm a bad Millennial. I call sometimes, yeah. All right, here it is.

[00:07:41] "Hi, Max Brown here calling about the application you submitted for the work from home opportunity with Amazon. Please complete your application and learn how you can earn up to $3,000 to $6,000 per month using your computer with Amazon. The website to finish your application is,"

[00:08:02] Brook Ellis: And of course I didn't submit anything to Amazon.

[00:08:06] Will Johnson: This is exciting news, Brook. You've got a job with Amazon, so you could, it could be your uh, your side hustle, I believe is what they call it these days.

[00:08:13] Brook Ellis: Yeah, my work from home job with Amazon according to Max.

[00:08:17] Will Johnson: Frank?

[00:08:18] Frank Abagnale: So, again, a phishing call and even if you didn't, and you realized you didn't apply to Amazon and nothing to do with it, you started to say, whoa, I could make that much money, money from home. I need to look into this. Obviously the site they're sending you to is fictitious, and once again, when you did make connection with someone, they'd be seeking information, so if I was going to hire you, I would need your social security number, I'd need your mailing address, I'd need your date of birth, etc., so again, there in the end, it's all about getting information.

[00:08:47] Will Johnson: You didn't call back.

[00:08:47] Brook Ellis: No, I did not call back, yeah.

[00:08:49] Will Johnson: All right, I know we have some emails. Thank you, Brook. A great contribution. Thank you, Frank. Julie, any more phone calls or we're going to emails?

[00:08:55] Julie Getz: All right, well looking at some of these emails, uh let's read this one from one of our colleagues actually. She and her husband recently purchased a home, maybe about a year ago now, so they're getting calls for um, refinancing, and uh she's getting calls constantly, every day between her and her husband.

[00:09:12] Will Johnson: Okay, so they legitimately are getting refinanced and now they're just being bombarded. Frank?

[00:09:17] Frank Abagnale: Again, uh somebody seeking information. So if I come on and offer you a deal and the refinancing at a very low interest rate, it sounds terrific, the company name sounds pretty legitimate, and you call me back; again, in order to take an application, I have to ask you all these pertinent questions such as name, address, bank account number, social security numbers, dates of birth. We should mention there is a new mortgage scam that's a lot more serious than that going on, and that is that people who are getting ready to close on a house, they've been involved very deeply with their realtor and their bank, they've saved up 40, 50,000 dollars for their down payment, they get an email from their realtor says the bank is ready for you to make the down payment, you need to wire your funds to this wire, this account, and that turns out to be a fictitious account, and the money ends up going overseas. You are out your down payment of your home. This happens a lot because the realtor is actually using their Yahoo account instead of using the company's business account, and it doesn't have the security that the business account has, and so people get that email and they think, wow, I've been waiting for them to tell me where to wire my down payment. This is where I, I wired it, and of course the bank has no legal liability. You're just out your down payment on your home. So I would always make sure you verify when you get an email tell you where to wire the money, that you call the bank and say, is this where I'm supposed to actually wire the funds?

[00:10:44] Will Johnson: Scammers leave no stone untouched when they, unturned as far as all the different areas they can...

[00:10:50] Frank Abagnale: Absolutely.

[00:10:50] Will Johnson: All right, Julie, and we have an email also we want to share with our listeners, right, and Frank.

[00:10:55] Julie Getz: Yes, we do. So this email is from a listener and he has a few questions for Frank about cryptocurrencies and their legitimacy. EJ writes, "With new initial (inaudible) offering sprouting up seemingly every day, how can we trust or even speculate on their potential value? Right now it takes navigating two to three separate websites and browser plug-ins to even access some crypto currencies. It's like the wild, wild West. Will bit coin and others become more regulated with insured exchanges? I've heard rumors that banks in a traditional sense will soon be a thing of the past. With Amazon and other companies looking into banking, what's the future look like?"

[00:11:33] Will Johnson: All right, Frank, what do you think?

[00:11:34] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, you know I've been asked about that a lot, asked actually a couple of years ago at Atlantic magazine, they always on the last page of their monthly magazine ask a famous person a question, and their question to me is how do I feel about bit coin and I said I thought it was probably an actually huge scam that a lot of people are going to lose a lot of money on. I still believe that. You have to understand there are hundreds of exchanges out there, many of them are phony, fictitious exchanges that people are working off of, so you can lose a lot of money very quickly. I can see why people jump on it because of the high rate of return, and they think, wow, this is a quick way to make money, but you have to be very careful that you're dealing with a legitimate company if you're using, uh and dealing in bit coin. I think the people that are in the bit coin business don't want it regulated, because it's a great way to move money around, especially money that's used on the Dark Web, money that's used for ransom and things of that nature are all done in bit coin so they can't be traced back to anyone. I think eventually it's going to have to be regulated or it will be uh something that will be, hinder a great deal of our financial system.

[00:12:38] Will Johnson: All right, Frank, and I see Brook uh needs, needs to run. All right, so thanks for coming by, Brook, with your questions. Julie, we're now going to shift gears just a little bit for Frank, if that's all right, and bring up two other scams that are going on that we want to, uh share with our listeners and get Frank's thoughts on. One being uh, the targeting of Chinese Americans by scammers.

[00:12:58] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, this is a scam that's going around where they're calling people with Chinese last names. They're claiming that they're from the Embassy or the Consulate. They say that someone's using their information overseas or their passport information over in China or somewhere else, and they need to uh, verify that uh their information is correct, and again it gets back to getting information. So they're asking them for information again like their banking information, their, their date of birth, etc.

[00:13:27] Will Johnson: Right, so it's always money or information .

[00:13:29] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, and again, it's always a simple fix, that if I get that call and I say it's the Chinese Embassy or whoever it says it is, it's easy to hang up the phone and just look up the number and call them back and say, I got this call. Before I wanted to give out any information, I wanted to make sure I'm talking to the right place. And then, of course, they would have said, we didn't make that call, that's a scam. Do not respond to it. It's very quick and easy to, to make sure you don't fall into these things.

[00:13:55] Will Johnson: Okay. And Frank, let's remind our listeners of a scam that our friends from the Fraud Watch Network told us about, uh a little while back, but it's, it's out there. The Medicare card scam, right?

[00:14:06] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, the Medicard scam, obviously the Medicare has got a new card out for Medicare, so basically they turn around and tell you that, if you haven't received your Medicare card, it's because you haven't paid your fee, so and they're telling you there's a fee associated with it.

[00:14:22] Will Johnson: Scammers are calling or emailing.

[00:14:23] Frank Abagnale: Yes, yeah, and it's $15, $20 but you need to pay that in order to get your new Medicare card, so they're basically calling you to say, have you received a new Medicare card, you're saying, no I didn't, I've been looking for it. Well that's because you haven't paid the fee. If you want to give me a credit card number now, it's just $15 and your card will come in 10 days and people give them their card number and they're just getting their credit card information. There is no fee. You will receive your card.

[00:14:49] Will Johnson: There are people who wake up every day and go to work and they're just looking for the next scam they can take advantage of. The next big thing, right?

[00:14:56] Frank Abagnale: And they see something in the newspaper like a new Medicare card, and right away they go, hmmm.

[00:15:00] Will Johnson: Oh yeah, this is...

[00:15:00] Frank Abagnale: And when the people know there's a fee associated with it or not associated with it, and how many people could I call and get them to pay the fee? It's the same thing.

[00:15:08] Will Johnson: All right, Frank. Thank you very much, and Julie, thank you. Anything else you'd like to add today or we've heard all your voicemail.

[00:15:14] Julie Getz: No, that was good, no that was fun. Thank you, Frank, for, for helping answer some of those questions.

[00:15:18] Frank Abagnale: I'm glad to be here.

[00:14:57] Will Johnson: Yeah, thanks for doing an all new segment, You've Got Mail with Frank.

[00:15:21] Frank Abagnale: Thanks, Will.

[00:15:22] Will Johnson: Uh, so folks, listen, if you'd like to tell us more about scams that are going on in your world, in your life, with your family, you can email us at The Perfect Scam casting at Again, we love your feedback your comments, your ideas, your thoughts. We've gotten a lot along the way and they've been really uh, helpful and, and we've learned about a few scams we didn't know about, except Frank probably already heard about it.

[00:15:47] Frank Abagnale: No, we always need to know about new scams, and we love hearing from you so that we can help other people that will probably fall victim to the same scam that you may have fell for. Please never be embarrassed by it. Anybody can be scammed, including myself. But what we need to do is get that information out there and educate people and we can only do that with your help of you calling in and emailing us and letting us know what happened to you so that we can make sure it doesn't happen to someone else.

[00:16:12] Will Johnson: Listen to Frank there, he said it all. Hey, just a reminder to all of our listeners, you can send us an email with your personal stories of scams or fraud that you've heard of that you want to tell us about that maybe you'd like to hear about on our show. Just send us an email at If you, or someone you know has been the victim of a scam or you just need information on anything scam related, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network helpline at 877-908-3360. Thanks to my team of scam busters; Julie Getz and Brook Ellis, and audio engineer, Steve Bartlett, and audio mastering done by Julio Gonzales. For AARP - The Perfect Scam, I'm Will Johnson.

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