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When local grandmother Marjorie Haffner recently received a call from one of her grandkids, she knew something was up.

She had dealt with this before.

“The voice didn’t sound like one of our grandsons,” Haffner said. “He said, ‘Grandma, write this down,’ and I asked him, ‘Who is this?’ He said, ‘Who else would be calling you grandma?’”

What the caller didn’t know is Haffner has 16 grandchildren.

“I told him I wouldn’t write anything down until he identified himself,” Haffner said.

That’s when he hung up.

Haffner believes the man was a phone scammer: strangers have impersonated her grandchildren before, often asking for money. Usually it’s a little more sophisticated.

 

“They just must think we are all ignorant,” she said.

It’s one of the busiest times of year for phone scams, even in Alaska. Andrea Jacobson, an investigator with the Alaska State Troopers Financial Crimes Unit, estimates that Alaskans are targeted by around 15 phone scams a month, though “numbers could be way higher than that. Some people are embarrassed to report that they’ve been scammed.”

Jacobson said she’s not sure if it’s seasonal, but there’s definitely been an uptick in phone scams targeting Alaskans in the past two years, especially on landlines owned by the elderly.

“It’s a national, widespread issue right now, it’s huge,” Jacobson said. “They definitely target the elderly.”

Haffner has received several of these calls in the past couple of years, most of them during the holidays. Other schemes have been more convincing.

“One guy said a grandkid was in jail. He was asking for money to help get him out,” Haffner said. “He knew the name of one of our grandkids, but when I asked him his middle name, he gave me the first name of my husband, which was the wrong answer.”

Another caller claimed a grandkid was hurt, and the Haffners needed to send money to help with his recovery. That caller hung up as soon as Haffner said she was recording the call.

“Some of them are pretty sharp,” Haffner said. “But we’ve never been taken in by any of them.”

Recently, the state is dealing with at least two widespread phone scams. One, believed to be a money laundering scheme, has callers impersonating the Publishers Clearing House. According to Jacobson, one Alaskan lost $100,000 to this scheme. Another, an 85-year-old cancer patient, lost $25,000.

“They’re picking on people who are particularly vulnerable to these scams for various reasons, sometimes they have an ill relative or they’re in a situation that they really need the money,” Jacobson said. “People want to believe so badly that they’ve won.”

In this case, fraudsters will use a call masking technology which allows them to appear as a local numbers. Jacobson’s partner did some digging on one of these calls, finding they used a phone service called Twilio to temporarily buy a local 907 number.

 

In another widespread scam (Jacobson cited reports in seven different Alaska cities, including Juneau) fraudsters impersonate Alaska State Troopers, claiming they need payment to keep victims out of jail.

Callers in these cases will often demand targets buy store bought credit cards from major retailers, and call back with the confirmation number. Jacobson said these scammers will ask that you call them “every step of the way” to ensure you’re following through — and not second-guessing — their demands.

Jacobson said it’s common, like in Haffner’s case, for callers to instill a sense of urgency in their targets by making up a desperate story. The first thing to do is get off the phone and verify some information.

“They usually make it sound pretty realistic. There are some variations: kidnappings, in jail, broken down in a foreign country,” Jacobson said. “In these cases the most important thing to do is get off the phone and call whomever they say is in trouble, often that will sort everything out. If they are claiming they have an arrest warrant, call the local trooper station. If they are claiming to be a grandchild, call that grandchild.”

The important thing is to get off the phone and don’t let a caller’s sense of panic push you to give them money, Jacobson said.

The next step is to report the call to your local police department.

In addition, the Financial Crimes Unit encourages people to report to the Federal Trade Commission at www.spc.gov or 877 382-4357.

The AARP also has a fraud network. That can be reached at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or toll free at 800 646-2283. Callers don’t have to be AARP members to call.

Jacobson said to look out if you’re on a landline as these numbers are easier for scammers to obtain than cellphone numbers. The elderly are the largest remaining demographic of landline owners, making them particularly vulnerable.

In addition, Jacobson cautioned people to keep track of the information they post on the internet. Scammers can put this to good use in impersonating law enforcement or family members.

Author : KEVIN GULLUFSEN

Source : http://juneauempire.com/local/2016-12-07/phone-scammers-tis-season

Categorized in Science & Tech

MOBILE technology such as smartphones and tablets are giving scammers fresh ways to steal your money.

Researchers say there are 25 million mobile services in Australia, more than one per person, with smartphones owned by 90 per cent of households and tablets owned by 60 per cent. It’s rich pickings for fraudsters who are mainly based overseas.

“Scammers are getting better at what they do,” says Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard.

“We have had more calls already this year about scams than all of last year.”

STAY VIGILANT ... ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard says scam reports are up this year. Source: Supplied

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The ACCC’s Targeting Scams report found that phone and text message scams remain the most common delivery method, although a large proportion is still through landline phone calls that typically target older, vulnerable consumers.

One-third of all victims have been targeted by scammers through social media sites.

“Scams delivered online, including email, internet and social networking platforms, account for $37.6 million or 44 per cent of losses for reports identifying the scammer contact method,” the report says.

 

Rickard says SMS scams typically ask you to respond to an offer and result in you being charged high call rates or subscriptions.

“Tablets and smartphones are not impervious to scams and malware,” she says.

Older Australians hit by investment scams

The most likely way to get your mobile device infected is to download apps from non-official channels, Rickard says. Consumers should stick to the official iTunes and Android app stores and always allow devices’ security updates.

“Be wary of free downloads such as music, free apps, games and downloads from adult sites, which often contain harmful software,” Rickard says.

Making tap-and-go credit card payments with smartphones opens another channel for scammers, so it’s important to keep your device protected by passwords and security updates to it being used as a free credit card.

People’s Choice Credit Union CEO Steve Laidlaw says people sometimes forget that they now carry supercomputers in their pockets.

“Just like any computer, mobile devices are at risk of attack by hackers,” he says.

POCKET SUPERCOMPUTERS ... People's Choice Credit Union CEO Steve Laidlaw says mobile devices are at risk just like PCs. Picture: Stephen Laffer Source: News Corp Australia

“By installing security software, turning on the safety features of your device, activating login authentication on the device, SIM card and voicemail and by making sure Bluetooth is turned off when you’re not using it, you’ll help secure our personal information.”

 

Laidlaw says you should be careful when banking and shopping online, and never open attachments or links in emails or SMS messages from unknown and unexpected sources. Spelling and grammar mistakes can be a big giveaway in scam messages sent to you, he says.

“Avoid using free public Wi-Fi when sharing personal information online as these networks are not secure, and are easy for hackers to access.

“If you’re at the airport, in a cafe or on public transport, be aware of what’s on your screen and what is visible to others. Criminals can observe passwords and other private details from your screen without you knowing, so consider a privacy film for your device.”

Source : news.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

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