VANDALIA — Technology can be wonderful. The options available to us today make it easier than ever to reach out and communicate with loved ones. Unfortunately, the same tools we use to reach out can also be used by criminals to steal from us. One of the bigger criminal trends we are seeing on the rise has crooks using the telephone or a computer to reach into your wallet.
A trick seen recently is something called “The IRS Scam.” The IRS scam involves a caller reaching you on your home phone and claiming that you owe money to the IRS. The caller goes on to warn you that there is already a lawsuit against you and that you should make payment immediately to avoid any further court proceedings. At this point, the caller will offer to send an agent of the IRS to your home to collect the money owed. They might also ask for bank account information. In either case, the story ends with the victim out large amounts of money.
Another phone scam is preying on elderly victims. The caller claims to be the grandson or granddaughter of the victim, and claims to be stuck in some far away location. The caller then asks for money so they can get home. Always check out this claim with relatives before wiring money. This “Granny Scam” has victimized a number of people here in Montgomery County.
The “You Are a Winner,” scam seems to come up from time to time. In this one, the caller informs the victim that he or she has just won a major cash prize in a sweepstakes. The caller then asks for bank account information to transfer the winnings, or asks that a small transfer fee be paid prior to issuing the check. Don’t give any personal information out over the phones. If you do, it’s the con artist that will be the big winner.
Another phone scam involves the caller pretending to represent a law firm. The caller informs the victim that unless he or she cooperates, they will be sued. They are then asked for personal account or social security information. Do not give out this information. Ask the caller for contact information and then call the police.
Crooks will also use your home computer to try to get your money. While on line, a popup screen will inform you that there is something wrong with your computer or your account, and will ask to “verify” your personal information. Once armed with your personal information, the bad guys are just a couple of keystrokes away from wiping out your bank account.
Crooks will also use the granny scam or the IRS scam via e-mail.
I cannot stress this enough… NEVER give out personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers over the phone or to an unverified web address. If you give these con artists that type of information, it is your own bank account that will suffer from a disaster. Always research the validity of a call claiming money is owed or even for a charitable organization before giving, and never agree to a donation over the phone.
In each of these scams, the primary goal of the con artist is to get you to give sensitive information out over the phone. Do not give them the information. With any telephone solicitation, the best course of action is to take down contact information, and investigate the claim. If something seems fishy, call the police.
Holly Estepp is the Vandalia Crime Prevention Officer. She can be reached at (937) 415-2272.