SHERIFF WARNS OF PHONE SCAMS
Before you say “yes” on the phone, consider you might be saying “hello” to problems.
Johnson County Sheriff Adam King says all Burleson Star readers need to be aware of scams involving saying “yes” to a stranger’s question on the phone, MoneyPak cards with green dots, check washing, jury duty, the IRS, FBI and more.
The say “yes” phone scam
If you get a call from a stranger asking, “Can you hear me?” hang up the phone, King said.
“The con aims to get victims to say the word ‘yes’ so scammers can record it,” King said. “The affirmative response is used by the fraudster to authorize unwanted charges — whether it’s to a credit card, a cable or phone account or a subscription.”
Here’s how it works: You receive a call — recent reports say the scammers are claiming they’re from a home security agency, a cruise line or associated with Social Security. After the introduction, the caller will ask if you can hear them clearly. If you answer “yes,” there’s a possibility the scam artist has recorded you. Next, they will use the response to sign you up for a product or service, then demand payment. If you refuse to pay, the caller may use your recorded “yes” to confirm your purchase agreement.
In many cases, the scammers already have the person’s phone number, which can be used to authorize third-party charges, King said, adding they may have a victim’s credit card number or cable bill as the result of a data breach. When the victim disputes any charges, the scammer can counter that they have consent on a recorded line.
If you are targeted by this scam, King recommends hanging up, even if you are unsure.
Other phone scams
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has recently received several reports of other phone scams attempted in various forms.
These scams are usually committed by convincing individuals that a situation requires immediate attention, or that the caller is trying to be helpful to the potential victim, King said.
“Either way, the ultimate goal is to take your money,” he said. “These thieves prey on people who simply aren’t familiar with the systems; the financial system and criminal justice system.”
Recent examples of the immediate attention scam are where the caller purports to be a relative of the victim stuck in a bad situation in a foreign country and needing immediate financial help to either pay a hospital bill, a doctor bill, or make bond, King said.
Recently, a Johnson County resident reported he received several calls from someone purporting to be with Microsoft. The caller claimed Microsoft had discovered significant problems with its software, King said.
“The caller asked the potential victim to allow him access to his computer to repair the problem at no charge to the victim. Obviously, if access is gained to the computer, the scammer has access to all your personal information,” King said.
“If you don’t remember anything else about these scam alerts, remember this,” King said. “When you get an unsolicited call from someone you don’t know talking to you about needing money, or access to your personal information, do what Nancy Reagan taught us when she was in the White House: just say no.”
Green Dot scams
Green Dot MoneyPak cards are legitimate re-loadable debit cards used by many individuals – who don’t have bank accounts – to pay their bills.
“Scam artists love them because they are more convenient than a money wire and just as untraceable,” King said. “Once they have the MoneyPak serial number, they are able to transfer funds onto a prepaid debit card. Through these scams, people are losing thousands of dollars.”
Here is how the scams work, King said.
After receiving a call from someone who claims to be collecting a debt for either a utility company or the IRS, people are being threatened – often with deportation or having some utility disconnected, he said.
“In some recent cases, the scammers are posting bogus items for sale on eBay and communicating through email to get the serial number from the MoneyPak card,” he said.
In the utility company scam, the victims are contacted by a caller who states he or she works at a utility company and is collecting past due money, King said.
“The caller informs the victim that he can avoid having his utility service disconnected if he immediately pays the past due amount using a Green Dot MoneyPak card that can be purchased at a local store,” King said.
The caller provides the victim with a phone number to call when the MoneyPak has been obtained, the sheriff said.
When they call, they are then instructed to scratch off and read the MoneyPak card serial number to the perpetrator. Once the scammer has the serial number, he is able to transfer funds onto a prepaid debit card, King said.
In the IRS scam, the victim receives a call saying he owes back taxes, fees or fines to the IRS. They threaten if immediate payment is not made using a Green Dot MoneyPak card, he will be arrested or deported, King said.
“This scam is perpetrated in the same manner as the utility scam and the results are the same,” the sheriff said. “The victim’s money is stolen.”
Green Dot MoneyPak cards are legitimate products when used for the right purposes, King said.
Once purchased at a participating retailer with cash, consumers can use MoneyPaks to reload other prepaid cards, add money to a PayPal account without using a bank account, or make same-day payments to major companies.
“Because the cards can only be bought with cash, consumers never need to disclose their personal or financial information to a retail cashier or to make a payment,” King said.
While many schemes still involve scammers asking for funds to be wired to them, MoneyPaks have the added benefit of the scammer not having to show up at an office to claim the funds, King said.
“Anyone with the 14-digit number found on the back of the MoneyPak card can drain the card of funds,” King said.
King offers these tips to help readers avoid falling victim to the scams:
• Remember that anyone with the number on a Green Dot MoneyPak card has access to its funds.
• Never give personal or financial information to anyone who emails or calls you unsolicited.
• Never wire money, provide debit or credit card numbers, or Green Dot MoneyPak card numbers to someone you do not know.
• Utility companies and government agencies will not contact you demanding immediate payment by MoneyPak.
Jury duty scam
Although there haven’t been any reported cases in Johnson County, other counties are receiving reports of a scam where citizens receive calls from one or more individuals posing as a sheriff’s deputy. The scammer then advises the party that a warrant is being issued on them for failure to appear for jury duty, King said.
“In several of the reported incidents, the poser advises the victim he can take care of the warrant by sending a payment in the form of a green dot card,” King said. “However, in some instances, no request for warrant payment was given to the called party. In most all of the complaints received, the potential victim has advised that the caller knows a lot of personal information about them.”
There is a recurring phone number these calls are received from. When dialed, this number has a recorded message that states the purported deputy’s name and that he is unavailable, the sheriff said.
FBI letter scam
Another scam the Sheriff’s office has received reports on involves an email purportedly from the FBI. “It advises the potential victim they are eligible to receive $2.5 million dollars,” King said.
The letter contains a lot of verbiage explaining how to go about receiving the money, the sheriff said.
“Ultimately, the recipient is informed he will have to pay shipping and handling costs of $225 to receive the $2.5 million,” King said.
Call the sheriff
Anyone who has been contacted by these scammers, or has information about these scams, is asked to contact their local law enforcement agency or the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office at 817-556-6058.