Beware: Six phone scams that might surprise (and scare) you

Many people believe that the best way for thieves to steal funds is through the online and mobile banking.  This is far from true.  In reality, the easiest way for fraudsters to get your personal information is through YOU!  Over the years, they’ve tried all kinds of ways to talk you into handing over your passwords, social security number, banking credentials and other personal tidbits that eventually wreak havoc on your financial life.

Here are a few scams to watch for:

  • “I’m with an anti-virus software company.”
    Scammers will call and claim to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple.  They say they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer.  They claim to be “tech support” and ask you to give them remote access to your computer, which allows them to change settings and install malware.  Eventually, they’ll diagnose a non-existent problem and ask you to pay for unnecessary – or even harmful – services.
    If you can believe it, after swindling people out of their money, scammers actually call victims 3-4 months after the theft to offer refunds or assist in getting them their money back!  This, too, is a scam.
  • “Hi, Grandpa?  This is Johnny and I’m in trouble!”
    The phone rings and it’s your grandson, giving you a story about how he’s in some kind of legal trouble and needs money.  Some of the details of his story are true, but the voice isn’t exactly the same.  He might even let you talk to the “police captain” or his “lawyer” to further corroborate the story.  This is, in all likelihood, a scammer.  Stay on the phone and eventually he’ll direct you to your nearest Western Union.  How to combat the scam?  Ask a personal question that only he can answer or simply hang up.  The longer you talk to the scammer, the more upset you will become and less likely you’ll be to resist the urge to “help” your grandson.
  • “Jury Duty”
    U.S. Marshalls do not call, threaten or fine people about jury duty.  If you receive a call like this, hang up.  Scammers “spoof” phone numbers to make it look like the call is coming from your area code, claim to be with the U.S. Marshal Service (or another government law enforcement agency) and threaten to arrest the victim unless he pays a fine immediately.
  • Phone spoofing
    Tech-savvy fraudsters are now able impersonate any phone number – meaning your caller ID will display a phone number that looks like an official government number or local number – which makes you more likely to answer.  Last year, scammers even spoofed the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Response Center phone number (which is the number people call to report fraud)!
  • “Pay back taxes or you go to jail!”
    Often the most feared of all government agencies, the Internal Revenue Service is now warning taxpayers that scammers are making calls impersonating IRS agents threatening arrest and jail unless you pay back taxes or fines immediately.  The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment or require payment without first giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed. In addition, the IRS will not require using a pre-paid debit card to make payments or ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.  Lastly, they do not threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement if you don’t pay.
  • “Can you hear me now?”
    Your phone rings and caller ID shows a number you don’t know.  You answer it anyway and hear, “Can you hear me now?”  It’s a pre-recorded robo-call – even though it sounds like a real person – and it’s illegal.  Next, you’ll hear phone tree instructions (Press 1 for an operator, press 2 for…)  Don’t respond – just hang up.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Protection department keeps a confidential database of all scams reported through its web site – In addition, law enforcement entities report to the FTC.  If you are targeted or fall victim to these or any other scams, please report it to the FTC.

In addition, if you inadvertently provide information to a suspicious caller involving your banking credentials, please report it to Norway Savings Bank’s Customer Care Center immediately at 888.725.2207.  We may be able to help you limit the damage.