Ho, Ho, Hoax

Naughty phone scammers are trying to steal your money this holiday season

‘Tis the season for decking the halls, singing Christmas carols, and fraudulent phone scammers. They seek to steal your money or personal information through phone calls made by real people, robocalls, or text messages. Detective Elizabeth Weatherly with the Tulsa Police Department’s Financial Crimes division has the following tips to avoid being taken advantage of by holiday phone scammers.

The Grandparents Scam

One popular scam during the holidays is the “Grandparents Scam” where a scammer will call late at night pretending to be a grandchild in need of help. They will say they are in jail, in the hospital, or having car trouble and need money right away. The scammer will try to keep you on the phone and get your credit card or bank information. The best thing to do is to hang up and call your relative to verify, even if it sounds like them.

Gift Card Scam

In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a pre-paid gift card number and PIN. But instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds and you will never receive the item. Remember, gift cards are gifts, not for paying someone.

This is how a scammer will avoid prosecution because they can claim your payment is a gift. Report gift card scams to the card issuer, the police, and the Federal Trade Commission, says Detective Weatherly.

Charity Scam

One-third of all charitable giving is done in December. Before making any charitable donation to a pushy telemarketer, verify the organization at CharityNavigator.org. Be wary If someone wants a donation in cash, gift card, or by wire. Scammers frequently use these payment forms.

Local Call Scam

Phone scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID. It is easy to ignore calls from area codes you do not recognize, but it is hard to ignore a call that looks familiar. When you get one of these robocalls, do not press any numbers or wait to speak to someone to take you off the calling list. It may lead to many more robocalls. The best option is to not answer the phone at all and let your answering service screen your calls.

Romance Scam

Feelings of isolation and loneliness tend to be heightened during the holidays. Finding romance on a dating website, app, or social media site can be a lure for scammers. When it comes time to meet in person, the new love interest has a “temporary financial problem” and needs money or gift cards sent to them.

Detective Weatherly says, “We are seeing this in our elderly population. Be very hesitant about sending money or providing financial and personal information to someone you’ve never met, especially if they are overseas.”

IRS and Social Security Scams

Scammers might pretend to be the police or with a federal agency like the IRS or Social Security office demanding money for back taxes or some other bogus debt. They may even threaten to arrest you if you do not pay them over the phone. Don’t believe it.

Detective Weatherly says, “Regardless of what you are told over the phone, the police department will never call and threaten to arrest you. We like the element of surprise—and will show up to your house if you need to be arrested.”

All joking aside, Weatherly stresses the importance of reporting scams to the Federal Trade Commission.

If you have lost money to a phone scam or have information about the company or scammer who called you, report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Report the number that received the call, the number that appears on your caller ID — even if you think it might be fake — and any number you are told to call back. If you did not lose money and just want to report a call, you can use the reporting form at DoNotCall.gov.

“Phone scammers can make any name or number show up on your caller ID.”

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