By Elliott Greenblott
It is time to open the Fraud Watch mailbag. Throughout the year, readers call or send emails with questions or concerns regarding their experiences. Here are a few of those messages that are typical of what I see and hear. Individual names have been removed out of consideration for the privacy of those who made contact.
Reader: A couple times a day I get robocalls about free knee braces, back braces or pain medication. I am registered on the Do Not Call list and have reported the calls to Nomorobo but I still get the calls. I reported the call but was told they couldn’t help me because actual fraud hadn’t been committed and I did the right thing by not answering the phone.
Reply: Many of these calls originate outside the U.S. and whether they originate here or elsewhere they utilize technology that provides anonymity. Yes, there is some available consumer technology and each of the phone companies provides some protection, but it is not perfect. Also, the protection against “live” scam calls such as the medical equipment, IRS, Medicare, grandparent and tech support scams is virtually unavailable.
Register for Do Not Call. While it will not stop scammers, it does stop many mass markers who want to remain legal and in business.
In general, don’t spend time blocking individual calls. The scammers utilize Skype-like systems that generate single use numbers and often duplicate real numbers (the 802-254 area code and prefix allow for 10,000 unique numbers). I have even received calls on my phone displaying my own phone number.
Check with your service provider and get whatever they are offering for free. At this point I do not pay for any blocking services and honestly do not know how effective they are.
My top recommendation is to simply resist the urge to pick up the phone unless you can identify the caller. If they want you, they will leave a message.
Reader: I have noticed from [my annuity company] that my tax documents are ready. I want to call to ask about something and they ask for my social security number to identify me. Is it safe to give that over the phone?
Reply: When you originate a call in a situation such as what you describe, it is generally safe to respond to requests for identifying information. I am assuming that the number you called was provided in [annuity company] literature such as an account statement, documents you received in the past or a number you have verified as correct. The only risk in providing the information would be the odd chance that a third party is listening to the call. The concern I have is that many people receive a call or email message and respond using the number provided in the call or email. That is something I recommend people to steer clear of or to respond using what is known to be a trusted contact number or email address.
Reader: We received two phone calls from AppleCare from a person named Molly @ Apple Support. AppleCare and the phone number appeared on our Caller I.D. She advised us not to use any of our Apple devices until we called her back at 844-774-1596 and warned us not to make any financial transactions on any of our devices as “scamming” or hacking activity had been picked up by AppleCare.
Reply: Apple and AppleCare do not call customers. Whenever you receive a “tech support” call, first verify its authenticity with the company and if it is not authorized, file notice with the company (e.g. email@example.com). The phone number for AppleCare is 800-APLCARE and tech support (800) 275-2273. They can be reached through the web site as well at www.apple.com.
While I do not have newspaper space to provide more of these, I can be contacted at my email address if you have particular question you would like answered. Questions, comments, concern? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and the Vermont coordinator of the AARP Fraud Watch Network. He produces a feature CATV program, “Mr. Scammer,” distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland.