Don’t return threatening scam robocalls

By: 
Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, May 9, 2019
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Scam calls entrap you with threats you think you can prevent by calling, or by cutting off mid-ring to imply a call was missed. Don’t call back!

Recently, there have been a series of scamming robocalls to my home landline. My first thoughts were since they’re directed to a landline, are they targeting more vulnerable seniors who are more likely to keep their landlines?

Doing some online research, it turns out social security scams are netting the most money of any scams this year. People are returning the calls, and losing money. Don’t return the calls!

The calls are intimidating. They threaten people who don’t call them back with legal or law enforcement actions against them and may threaten their social security will stop if they don’t call. 

It may begin by saying they’re calling about an “Order” to suspend your social security because of “suspicious information.” 

They use legal criminal investigation terms like “If you’re not a suspect…”

The numbers they give to call vary but it is usually a long distance number. One area code provided is for Raleigh North Carolina, the other is for the Baltimore area of Maryland. It could appear as local.

If you do not call, they threaten legal action. One call said, “your warrant will be activated. Good luck!” 

The last line is especially taunting.

The calls advise, "Contact your investigating officer” implying a government call. Never call back.

Instead, you might report the calls. 

Sheriff Josh McQuillan says, “Our office sees multiple reports of these types of scams each week.”

McQuillan says to report use the Montana State Fraud hot-line 800-222-4446 and Federal reporting number is 800-366-4484. "Here is a link to a website that gives some good tips https://www.fraud.org/prevent_fraud." 

You can report them to local law enforcement and also report them to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint. There is a whole section that walks you through reporting the action and giving them the information to follow up on. 

The FTC says Social Security will NEVER make intimidating phone calls threatening action. 

Seena Gressin, Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, for FTC says, “You’re not alone. Our latest Data Spotlight finds that reports about SSA imposters are surging, while reports about IRS imposters have taken a dive.

As the Spotlight puts it, ‘In the shady world of government imposters, the SSA scam may be the new IRS scam.” While reports of SSA imposters have swelled – nearly half of the reports we’ve gotten in the last year have come in the past two months alone – reports of IRS scammers have plunged. What’s more, people told us they lost $19 million to SSA imposters in the past year. That overtakes the $17 million reported lost to IRS imposters in 2016, the peak year of the IRS scam.’”

To spot imposters, FTC says, “They often use robocalls to reach you, then launch into a story aimed at tricking you into giving them your money, your Social Security number (SSN), or both. Or, they may say your SSN has been involved in a crime and your bank account is about to be seized or frozen, but you can protect your money if you put it on a gift card and give them the code. Never do that – your money will disappear.

Gressin says, “If you get one of these calls, remember – the real SSA will never contact you out of the blue or tell you to put money on a gift card or, for that matter, visit a Bitcoin ATM, or wire money. If your caller ID shows a number that looks like it belongs to the SSA,   don’t trust the number – scammers fake their caller ID all the time. If you’re worried, hang up and call the SSA yourself at 1-800-772-1213.

Check out the  Data Spotlight for more information. If you think a scammer has your Social Security number, visit to learn what you can do. 

They are international as well. Other scam methods include a late night call that cuts off. Do not call back-or you may incur a $900 phone charge…to Japan! Another scam call comes from Mauritania in Africa with a 222 area code. 

Don’t be scammed. Better yet, report it and prevent someone else from being scammed. 

To avoid fraud, see tips given by the FTC in box.

The Federal Government lists 10 things you can do to avoid fraud

Crooks use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. Here are some practical tips to help you stay a step ahead.

• Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like  a government official,  a family member,  a charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.  

• Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.

• Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

• Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and   loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear. 

• Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.

• Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do  an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.

• Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.

• Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.

• Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.

• Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.

If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.

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