On Tuesday, September 23, 2008, MSNBC.com's Herb Weisbaum wrote about the "Canadian granny scam."
With the "grandparent scam" the caller pretends to be a grandchild in trouble in Canada who needs money immediately. The caller often says he's been arrested, was in a car accident or had some type of medical emergency.(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26859652/)
The New York Times reported:
Americans are losing at least $1 billion a year in fraudulent telephone sales, the Federal Trade Commission told Congress today. (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DEFDD1E30F937A2575AC0A96E948260)
Today my phone rang at 7 a.m. "Lisa Morris" was calling. Lisa had a thick Indian accent and was obviously reading from prewritten text. She mispronounced every word. I said I didn't know who she was. I asked who she worked for. She worked for "Secure Account Agency" and they knew that I had been "scammed" out of money from my bank account for about $700 via unauthorized withdrawal. I gasped. I asked who did this to me. She did not give me a specific answer. She asked for the name of my bank. I asked her where she was calling from. She said "Florida." She said she could get my phone number taken off lists of scammers so that this would not happen again. I could see what was coming. Lisa asked again what bank I use. I told her that I thought she was calling from overseas and that if I could trace the phone call it would not go to an office in Florida. I hung up on her. I *69'd the call and was told it was a "private" phone number that could not be given. Lisa can call be, but I cannot call her. I searched on computer for "Secure Account Agency" and found none.
This area has had many problems with scammers phoning and asking for your social security number, your bank name, your bank account numbers. The World newspaper here in Coos Bay publishes crimes and mischief in the paper everyday and there are always a few telephone fraud attempts mentioned. It's the spam of the phone lines.
People really need to be wary of anyone asking for information over the phone. This Lisa Morris sounded like she was trying to help me. Other callers have offered me vacations. Other callers tell me it is my last chance to get a warrantee on my car. Some say they have an urgent message about my credit cards (I have no credit cards). Others say they can solve all my financial problems. I have not even mentioned the spam I get by email. This is just the phone. I've been told I've won lotteries in foreign countries.
A few weeks ago I got a second invitation by mail to refinance my car through the bank it is already financed through. The letter said the bank could get me a little extra cash now by tacking the loan for the cash to the back end of my current loan. Another option was to lower my monthly car payment and extend the loan longer. Right now, either option sounded good, so I called. The person who gathered the initial information from a phone in Nevada switched me to another person in Minnesota. Mr. Minnesota had more question. He asked for my account number and all that. He did some calculating while I waited. When he spoke again, he said, "If you can send us $1,600, we can send you some cash." I thanked him for his consideration of my request and said goodbye. I did not blast into his ear that what he said seemed utter stupid to me. I wondered how stupid I was. Ever since then, I have wondered if I gave information by phone to a scammer. I do not have my checking account in that bank, so a scammer would not be able to access that and ruin me. But Mr. Minnesota had a lot of information about me right at his fingertips. What naughty things could he do with that?
I was able to get my car, after my old one suddenly passed away, because a car dealership sent me advertising by mail that simply said, paraphrasing here: We have cars. We have financing. We are here. This is our phone number. Please call if you think we can help you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. That was a message from heaven. I called. I met them. We talked. After 3 hours of paperwork and calls, they were able to find a car for me. I was delighted. They even took care of disposing of the remains of my old car. That worked out well.
The difference between the two offers was that the good one said: We are here if you need us. The bad one said: We created a problem and we're going to make you pay through nose to solve it for you. I am still not entirely sure about the mail that led to my discussion with Mr. Minnesota.
To prepare myself should the fraud hydra rear up, I found websites and information that may help me. Perhaps they will help you. There are many more helpful sites than I have listed here.
The Federal Trade Commission has a website with a lot of information about kinds of scams, how to tell when an author is a scam, what to do if you have been scammed, and how to get your phone number on the Do-Not-Call List. Their websites starts off by saying:
Telemarketing fraud is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States. Every year, thousands of consumers lose as little as a few dollars to as much as their life savings to telephone con artists.
That's why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) encourages you to be skeptical when you hear a phone solicitation and to be aware of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, a law that can help you protect yourself from abusive and deceptive telemarketers.
Unlike most other crimes, telemarketing fraud requires one essential element: victim participation. We're all potential targets, because fraud isn't limited by race, ethnic background, gender, age, education, or income. But, if you're age 60 or older, you may be a special target for people who sell bogus products and services by phone. The best way to protect yourself is to know the differences between legitimate offers and fraudulent ones.
Scambusters.org is a non-profit group website dedicated to protecting people from scammers. They have 302 documents of useful information available. (http://www.scambusters.org/backissues.html). This site is comprehensive, covering information about almost every possible scam. You can click on "Latest Scam" and find out the very newest tricks bad people are trying in order to get us to given them our money.
Snopes.com also provides good information about telephone scamming. They describe how cell phone scamming works. (http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/jailcall.asp)
The Federal Communications Commission has a website about cell phone fraud which opens with a definition:
Cellular fraud (cell fraud) is defined as the unauthorized use, tampering, or manipulation of a cellular phone or service. At one time, cloning of cellular phones accounted for a large portion of cell fraud. As a result, the Wireless Telephone Protection Act of 1998 expanded prior law to criminalize the use, possession, manufacture or sale of cloning hardware or software. Currently, the primary type of cell fraud is subscriber fraud. The cellular industry estimates that carriers lose more than $150 million per year due to subscriber fraud. Subscriber fraud occurs when someone signs up for service with fraudulently-obtained customer information or false identification. Lawbreakers obtain your personal information and use it to set up a cell phone account in your name. (http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cellphonefraud.html)
I would strongly urge anyone who receives a phone call, a cell phone call, a fax, an email, or a letter from someone they do not know offering financial help to do some research about the company or people before giving any information. Do your research. Be aware.