Cellphones, Email and the new avenues for the old game

It has become ever less expensive to reach out to others. Email and telephone are now nearly free and the robots can roll through telephone numbers and address lists with ease. That means the scammers have a wide field to play in. You aren’t even safe out in the boonies any more as cell phone coverage spreads and remote state parks start to feature Wifi.

Katherine Rodriguez describes one: ‘Can You Hear Me?’ Phone Scam Has Police Warning People to Hang Up Immediately.

Police say answering the question “Can you hear me?” over the phone from an unknown caller can have serious consequences thanks to a new scam that is making the rounds in several states.

“You say ‘yes,’ it gets recorded and they say that you have agreed to something,” Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy for the Consumer Federation of America, told CBS News. “I know that people think it’s impolite to hang up, but it’s a good strategy.”

Police suggest taking the following steps to avoid this scam:

Do not answer the phone from numbers you do not recognize,
Do not give out personal information,
Do not confirm your number over the phone,
Do not answer questions over the phone.

Police urge those who do get caught in a scam to hang up the phone and call 911 instead.

I am not so sure about calling 911 as non-emergency (not threatening life or property) calls should go to the routine dispatch number but 911 is easier to remember.

Here’s the Federal Trade Commission page on phone scams. A search for Washoe County Sheriff scam report finds don’t be a victim.

Anyone who has been a victim of this scam, or who receives such a call, is encouraged to take down as much information as possible, such as a name and call back number, without giving any information away. Then, immediately contact the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office at (775) 328-3001.

Verizon has a rundown on What are Robocalls?

Robocalls are phone calls with prerecorded messages. These calls have increased in recent years because technology has made it cheap and easy for robocallers to make calls from anywhere in the world while hiding their identities by displaying fake Caller ID information. To Learn More visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

All calls with prerecorded telemarketing sales messages are illegal unless you agreed to be called. Some non-marketing robocalls (such as political and charitable calls to wireline telephones) are authorized by law in most states, even if they are unwanted.

Senior fraud seems to be a particular concern with special laws. Nevada Consumer Affairs says

Older Americans are targeted for fraud because they are the mostly likely demographic to have money in savings, own their home, and have excellent credit… all of which a fraudster will attempt to take advantage of. Also, seniors are less likely to report fraud.

The Nevada Senior Guide also has Tips for Staying Safe As a Senior Citizen by Mark Mahaffey.

the elderly grew up during decades when it was proper to be polite and trusting. This makes them less likely to be rude during a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting with a con artist. The con artist will keep pushing, and the elderly victim may just ‘give in.’

Financial crimes are devastating for anyone, but especially so for senior citizens. They not only feel afraid, but may begin to question their own ability to handle their own affairs. For an aging person already trying to hold on to independence as long as possible, this can be emotionally terrifying.

On the other hand, sometimes the effort to protect the elderly goes a bit too far. A neighbor got in trouble like this once in caring for his mother as a physician reported a bruise from a fall as potential abuse. For an explanation of the law, see Nevada “Elder Abuse, Neglect, Exploitation & Isolation” Laws (NRS 200.5099) (Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys)

It is a crime in Nevada to abuse, neglect, financially exploit, abandon or isolate the elderly. Certainly it is illegal to harm people of any age, but Nevada law carries harsher penalties for targeting “older persons.”

Caretakers and family members are often wrongfully accused of abusing elderly people in Nevada. These false allegations may stem from simple misunderstandings, innocent accidents or legitimate self-defense. But a conviction carries devastating penalties and mars the accuseds’ records, causing prospective employers not to consider them for jobs.

It’s a wide world out there and there are people from kids playing with fire to bone fide experienced criminals trying every door and window to find an opportunity for mischief.

Take Care.

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