PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Attorney General Kathleen Kane is warning consumers in Pennsylvania about several scams that have been reported to the Bureau of Consumer Protection in recent weeks.
Officials say the scams involve callers who use sophisticated computer technology called “caller ID spoofing,” which is illegal, to mask their true identify to defraud consumers. It is challenging to locate the person making the calls, and if consumers transfer money, it can be difficult to recover.
DEBT COLLECTION SCAM
A new twist on an old scam, officials say callers threatening debt collection in recent weeks are claiming to be from the Office of Attorney General to collect an unpaid payday loan or other debt. The Office of Attorney General would never initiate such a call. Officials say the caller will threaten that the consumer will be charged with theft by deception and arrested by local police if payment by credit card or electronic money transfer is not made within 24 hours. These calls have also been made by people posing as Internal Revenue Service representatives, calling to collect unpaid taxes.
Officials say callers claim to represent a sweepstakes company awarding a prize to the consumer, which can be claimed once the consumer sends a payment to cover processing fees and taxes.
Claiming to be from well-known companies such as Microsoft, officials say scammers contact consumers alleging they detected viruses or other malware (malicious software) on the consumer’s computer.
Next, to build the consumer’s confidence, officials say the scammer will retrieve a “serial number” that is actually just a product code number associated with any computer using Microsoft or another operating system.
Officials say most consumers do not have the technological expertise to make this distinction. They assume the scammer is legitimate and that there is a virus on their computer, so they turn over login and password information. Officials say some scammers even request credit card information for payment for the “services rendered.”
Kane says consumers can take the following steps to avoid become a victim of these or other phone scams:
• Never give out personal information over the telephone.
• Never give out billing information over the phone, especially if you receive an unsolicited telephone call from a stranger.
• Never wire money or purchase green dot-type prepaid cash cards in response to a telephone appeal, whether it is from a stranger or someone who claims to know you.
• Never let emotion or fear overcome your common sense. If you get a call for money from a friend or relative, slow down and verify everything. Don’t let anyone rush you.
• Never give out sensitive information to anyone on the phone unless you initiated the call to a company you are certain is legitimate.
Consumers can file a complaint regarding these or other scams by calling the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s toll-free helpline number at 1-800-441-2555 or online at www.attorneygeneral.gov.
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