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Fraud Watch Network Takes On Con Artists

File Early, Pre-empt Identity-Theft Tax Fraud

With tax-filing season a prime time for identity theft scammers to prey on unsuspecting consumers, AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell passes along some important advice from the AARP Fraud Watch Network: Filing your 2019 tax return early can greatly reduce you chance of being victimized by a fraudulent return.Read more...

Rhode Isand Launches New Cyber Fraud Hotline

RI launches new fraud hotline. The statewide system is intended to support victims of crimes including identity theft, fraud and cyberstalking. Read more...

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Is your group or organization ready to host a Fraud Watch presentation?

Let us know. Call Darlene Reza Rossi at 401-248-2674 or send her an email.


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The Verdict: Jury Duty Scammers are Guilty

For more than a decade, the jury duty scam has remained one of the most successful impostor schemes. Fraudsters not only get a quick payoff but also may gather enough personal details for future identity theft.

How It Works:

It starts with a phone call, and a claim that you face imminent arrest because you didn’t report for jury duty. This call may seem authentic, with your caller ID showing a phone numbers for a courthouse or law enforcement agency, and the con artist citing names of actual police and judges. The aim is to startle you into making the desired response: “What?! I never received a jury duty summons!”

To avoid arrest, the caller says, you can pay a fine (typically requested in the form of a prepaid debit or gift card). And to verify he’s called the correct violator, the swindler asks to confirm your identity by soliciting personal information, including your name, birth date, Social Security number and other ID theft-worthy details.

What You Should Know:

  • Authentic jury duty notifications, as well as “no show” summonses, are nearly always delivered by mail. In rare instances, the courthouse may call prospective jurors, but only after a jury duty summons was mailed but returned as undeliverable.
  • Court officials won’t call asking for personal information such as your Social Security number, birth date or driver’s license number.
  • Legitimate law enforcement officials never call warning of an impending arrest – about missing jury duty or any other infraction.
  • Caller ID can be manipulated to display the name and phone number of any agency or business, so it’s not a reliable source of information.

What You Should Do:

  • Hang up without providing any information about yourself.
  • If you get a call like this and have concerns, look up the courthouse phone number (don’t rely on caller-provided numbers) and verify missed jury allegations with the court.
  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1-877-908-3360 for help if you have a question about calls like this or if you have been victimized.

When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. Please share this alert with friends and family.

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Fake Law Firm and the Tech Support Scam

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In this scam, you get an online popup or a call from a well-known tech company (like Microsoft or Apple) that a virus has been identified on your computer. The scammer convinces you that he can fix the problem for a fee. Victims who catch on and stop payment are now getting hit with an associated scam.
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How It Works:
• You cancel payment for the fake tech support you purchased only to receive an official-looking letter from a law firm.
• The letter says that by not paying for the tech support you signed up for, you are committing an act of “civil theft” and will be responsible for the cost of the service plus court fees.
• The letter threatens legal action if you do not pay a specified amount, providing a case number and phone number for you to contact within 24 hours.

What You Should Know:
• The letter at first is alarming and looks legitimate – until you slow down and look at it more carefully, at which point you see grammatical and typographical errors.

What You Should Do:
• Read the letter carefully, looking for telltale signs of a scam.
• Look up the law firm online to see if there’s any trace of it.
• Report the scam to www.ftc.gov/complaint.
• If you are unsure, call AARP’s Fraud Watch Helpline for guidance at 1-877-908-3360.

 

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IRS Announces Use of Private Debt Collectors

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is now working with private debt collection agencies to recover unpaid tax debts. Scammers could attempt to capitalize on potential confusion created by lw development.

How it Works:

  • If you have a long overdue federal tax account, IRS will mail you a letter informing you that it is turning over your account to a private debt collection agency. The letter will provide the name of the company and contact information.
  • The private debt collector will then send you a letter confirming the account transfer before contacting you by phone.
  • The debt collector will be able to discuss payment options with you, but the only way you can pay your tax debt is electronically or by check, payable to the US Treasury. #AARPRI

What You Should Know:

  • The IRS authorized only four private debt collection agencies to collect tax debt, and only one of them will contact you if you owe federal taxes. The agencies are CBE Group of Cedar Falls, IA; Conserve of Fairport, NY; Performant of Livermore, CA; and Pioneer of Horseheads, NY.

What You Should Do:

  • Remain vigilant to the IRS imposter scam: if you do not have federal tax debt, then you will not get a call from IRS or a private debt collector demanding payment.

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Rhode Island AG warns of Medicare scam

PROVIDENCE, R.I.  - Rhode Island’s attorney general is warning about a scam artist posing as a representative from the state’s health insurance exchange to get personal information from Medicare patients.

Peter Kilmartin says his office was alerted that Rhode Island Medicare patients were receiving phone calls from someone claiming to be a representative of HealthSource RI. He says the male caller requested personal information, including the patient’s Medicare number.

Kilmartin is reminding residents to never provide that number to anyone over the telephone. He says it can be used to set up fake businesses to bill Medicare for health-related items that are never provided to the Medicare subscriber. The AG says his office confirmed with HealthSource RI that the agency never contacts people over the phone to ask for such information.

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Fraud Watch Turns Tables on Con Artists in 'Reverse Boiler Room'

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PROVIDENCE, RI (September. 17, 2015) – AARP Fraud Watch Network lit up the phone lines today as part of a “Reverse Boiler Room,” dialing hundreds of people to warn them about two leading “imposter scams” hitting thousands of Rhode Islanders.

Borrowing a favorite tactic the con artists’ playbook, AARP Fraud Watch Network staff and volunteers operated their own telemarketing boiler room. Instead of hearing from crooks, local residents received tips and information on how to protect themselves from “imposter scams.”  Impersonating police officers, federal agents or financial service companies, scammers use their “authority” to scare a person into paying them. Or, they pretend to be a friend or loved one in trouble who needs money.

A staff member from Office of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s consumer unit joined the volunteers as they made calls to hundreds of Rhode Island residents warning them of two key imposter scams:  IRS and “tech support.”  According to the Federal Trade Commission list of top consumer fraud complaints last year, more than 6,200 residents were victims of imposter scams.


“Through the efforts of this ‘reverse boiler room’ in the northeast, AARP is reaching out to seniors directly with the information and tools they need to avoid financial exploitation. I want to commend AARP for this effort,” Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said. “The work of AARP is aligned with my office’s efforts to protect seniors’ hard earned money through our Consumer Protection Unit and Elder Abuse Unit, which educate and protect our state’s large number of older Rhode Islanders from falling prey to con artist and telephone scams, and prosecute those who perpetrate financial exploitation on elders.”

“Con artists think they can bully people into forking over their hard-earned money,” Kathleen Connell, State Director for AARP Rhode Island, said. “That’s why today, we’re turning the tables on them and arming Rhode Islanders with the information they need.”

In the IRS scam, you receive a phone call from an IRS official ordering you to pay back taxes or face arrest.  In the tech support scam, you’re told your computer has a virus and they need remote access to your computer to fix it.

“We’re giving people the facts. For example, the IRS will never call you over the phone and demand payment. Any initial communication will come through the mail,” added Connell.  “And, Microsoft or other large computer companies will not call you unsolicited asking for access to your computer and demand payment.”

The “Reverse Boiler Room” is part of a partnership between the AARP Fraud Watch Network and our state’s Attorney General’s Office and brings together volunteers from across the state trained in coaching people how to spot and avoid scams.

Fraud Watch Network arms people with the information they need to spot and avoid scams so they can protect themselves and their families.  By signing up for the Fraud Watch Network, consumers get access to:

  • The latest scam alerts, delivered right to your inbox.
  • A scam tracking map featuring warnings from local law enforcement and first-hand accounts of breaking scams from people in your state.
  • The Con Artist Playbook – interviews with con artists who reveal how they steal your hard-earned money.
  • A fraud hotline you can call to talk to a trained volunteer for advice if you are worried you or a loved one has been scammed or if you suspect a scam in your community.


The Attorney’s General and volunteers shared the following tips with call recipients:


Fraud Watch Network Tax Scam Protection:

Know that the IRS does not:

  • call to demand immediate payment about taxes owed without first sending you a notification by mail,
  • ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone,
  • threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for nonpayment.

Fraud Watch Network Tech Scams Protection:

  • Scammers claim affiliation with Microsoft, “Windows,” computer manufacturers or others, but legitimate employees of those companies don’t make phone calls or send “personal” email warnings about an infection in a particular computer. When real threats are detected, a security update or warning is usually sent en masse – and directly to your computer by the manufacturer of the antivirus protection installed on your machine.
  • Unless you initiate contact with a trusted technology assistance firm like Geek Squad, never give strangers remote access to your computer. (They may get it by asking you to type a certain code, download a program they provide, or provide them with your username and password.)
  • Don’t be fooled if a phoning tech support scammer knows your name, address or even the operating system you’re using. Cybercrooks glean their targets through public phone directories and often “guess” your operating system by citing more popular ones.
  • At least once a week, check for updates in your security software and run scans several times a week.
  • For legitimate tech support, Microsoft users can call 877-696-7786 and Mac users can call Apple at 800-275-2273. Do not trust other phone numbers provided in calls or emails, as they may belong to scammers.

That call from 'Tech Support'? It's not support. And we're fighting back. Learn more.

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Is the “Say Yes” Scam Real?

Our Fraud Watch Network Help Line has been fielding lots of calls about the “Say Yes” scam. News reports have warned that a fraudster will call and ask a question to get the victim to say yes. The scammer records that affirmation to use it to authorize unwanted charges to a phone bill, utility bill, or even a stolen credit card.

While many people report that they are getting calls like these followed by a hang up, we have yet to encounter any victims. If you got a call like this and answered yes, don’t panic. Here are some tips about dealing with this possible scam.

What You Should Know:

  • The caller will ask a question that will elicit a “Yes” response, such as “Can you hear me?” or “Are you the homeowner?” Once you say “Yes,” the scammer will hang up.
  • Reportedly, the scammer can use this recorded affirmation to “prove” you approved a charge to a bill or credit card.
What You Should Do:

  • Avoid answering calls from unfamiliar numbers.
  • Always closely review your bills and credit card statement for unauthorized charges.
  • If you discover an unauthorized charge, call the biller immediately to dispute it.












Top Scams Targeting Veterans

In the “how low can you go” category, scammers often target veterans – either in direct scams offering bogus services, or in charity scams that closely mimic the names of legitimate organizations helping veterans and military families. Warn your loved ones of these top tricks:

  • Bogus sales – A scammer claiming to be a deploying service member posts a large ticket item on a classified ad website that he needs to sell right away and at a steep discount. The scammer asks for upfront payment with a wire transfer or gift cards.
  • Real estate rip-off – A scammer posts a fake rental property on a classified ad website offering military discounts. You just need to wire transfer a security deposit to the landlord.
  • VA phishing – A caller claiming to be from the Department of Veterans Affairs calls to "update" your information.
  • Fake charities – Fake charities use names that are close to the names of legitimate charities, often referencing Armed Forces, veterans, or military families.
  • Benefits buyout scam – Scammers will target veterans in need of money by offering cash in exchange for their future disability or pension payments. These buyouts are typically a fraction of the value of the benefit.
  • Dubious investment advice – An “adviser” will tell the veteran she is missing out on benefits, and wants to review her investment portfolio. He’ll then want to put the veteran’s investments in a trust, to appear to have fewer assets and to therefore be eligible for an additional pension.

Here’s how to avoid falling for scams like these:

  • Be suspicious anytime you are asked to pay by wire transfer or gift cards.
  • Know that the VA will never call, text or e-mail you to update your information.
  • Check out the charity on www.give.org or www.charitynavigator.org before giving any money. Make donations directly to the veterans’ organizations you know.
  • Only work with VA-accredited representatives when dealing with VA benefits; you can search for them online at the VA Office of General Counsel website.

Is That Really a Debt Collector on the Phone?

How it Works:

  • A debt collector is someone who regularly collects debts owed to others. It could be a collection agency, a lawyer, or a company that buys delinquent debts and then tries to collect them. On the other hand, it could be a fake debt collector! Armed with sensitive information he coaxes from you, the criminal could charge your credit cards or open new accounts, take out loans in your name, write fraudulent checks and more.

What You Should Know:

  • A debt collector might be a fake if the person is trying to collect on a loan you don’t recognize, refuses to give you a mailing address or phone number, asks you for sensitive information, or uses threats to try to scare you into paying.

What You Should Do:

  • Tell the caller you refuse to discuss the debt unless you receive a written notice that includes the debt amount, the name of the creditor, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
  • Don’t give the caller sensitive information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information unless you know whom you’re talking to. This includes your bank account number, credit card, or Social Security number.
  • If the debt is legitimate, but you think the collector may be a fake, contact your creditor about the calls.

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Health Insurance Exchange Calling? No, It’s a Scam!

How it Works:

  • You get a robocall purporting to be from the Health Insurance Marketplace, saying you need to purchase insurance or pay a fine. If you do as instructed and “press 1,” an operator will ask for your personal information, including your full name, date of birth, phone number, income information and Social Security number.

What You Should Know:

  • The Health Insurance Marketplace doesn’t make robocalls, and they don’t ask for personal information. These are scammers, and they’re after your personal information. If you give it to them, they will use it to make purchases and open credit cards in your name.

What You Should Do:

  • If you get a recorded call, hang up. Unless you signed up to receive recorded calls, the call is illegal.
  • Don’t press 1 to speak to the operator this puts you at risk for receiving more calls.
  • If you do speak to an operator who asks you for personal information, hang up!

This is just the latest twist on scams involving health insurance. Some scammers offer to help you navigate the new health care law for a fee. Scam alert! Others will tell you need a new Medicare card, because of the new health care law. To learn more about health care scams, visit the FTC’s website.

 

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