Your phone rings and a decidedly thick accent, its origin differing with every call, informs you that you are the next lucky winner of The Publisher’s Clearing House award. The Prize Patrol just needs you to pay the taxes on your winnings and they’ll be on your doorstep with your oversized check and a camera crew.
While this may be a dream for most of us, this particular Prize Patrol is the stuff of nightmares. Sadly, you did not win a 2019 Malibu and that million-dollar cardboard check will not clear the bank. You have been scammed.
The schtick ranges from winning money or cars to incarcerated grandchildren. While, in the past, these scams were directed at the elderly, everyone now is fair game.
If you own a cell phone you should notice calls on a daily basis coming in from numbers you don’t recognize in countries you’ve never visited. Some numbers will appear to be local due to the software utilized by the centers charged with making these calls. Some will call you grandma or grandpa and claim to be your favorite grandchild who has gotten in trouble and needs to be bailed out of jail. Others will claim to be agents from the Social Security Administration investigating fraud under your social security number.
These call center agents, or privately motivated scam artists, will request that you go to your nearest chain store to purchase pre-paid cards in order to satisfy whichever fee they’ve created, be it bail money or taxes. You will be led to believe that the situation is dire enough, or joyous enough, to justify the loss of any monies they request.
The situation is never that serious, and probably not that joyful. If you have been the recipient of any of these types of calls it is best to inform the caller of your knowledge of their malicious intent and hang up. Informing members of your local law enforcement, while helpful in tracking the amount of scam and fraud calls coming into the area, won’t do much to stop the perpetrators. None of these scam artists are local, most aren’t even in this country. The numbers you’ve received calls from are not, typically, even working numbers upon a simple redial; therefore, capture and prosecution of these people is nigh on impossible.
Exercise caution when taking phone calls from unrecognized numbers. Never give personal information or promise monies over the phone.