Every day and as often as twice a day, I am hearing of telephone and email scams being perpetrated on my clients, associates and friends. Be Careful! These scams go far beyond the deceptive marketing mail you get in your mail box.
A person who retained me recently, being on the verge of bankruptcy and on a payment plan with Peco, received a telephone call that her electricity was going to be shut off that afternoon and the only thing she could do to prevent shut off was to get a Green Dot card at the local convenience store and pay $540.00 that afternoon. She thought she was current on her plan but was much too panicked by the phone call to take any chances. She did as instructed. She then called Peco to confirm receipt and that the electric would stay on only to be told that she had been scammed and to add insult to injury, still had to pay the Peco money due. At least with her chapter 7 filing she will not have to pay the Peco arrears after all. But boy o boy, was that a bitter pill for her to swallow.
Next scam is the IRS telephone call scam. Someone calls saying that he is an officer w/the IRS, you and your spouse owe the IRS money and if you don’t pay it right now there will be a warrant issued for your arrest. The caller provides information on making the payment and a person who is totally flabbergasted by this bolt out of the blue feels compelled to make the payment now and ask questions later. Please know that the IRS provides required notices by mail with 30 days to respond to a demand for payment. Also, if you don’t think you owe the government money, you probably don’t. Consult with your tax person or this attorney about such a matter. Don’t panic and certainly don’t send any money. The IRS has its collection process but it is rule bound, regulated, methodical and transparent. IRS collection is most certainly not a telephone call out of the blue.
The Grandparents scam. The caller represents they are the police, the grandchild has been doing something illegal and is in their custody. Bail money must be paid immediately, in steps the Green Dot money transfer to post bail. They even put a teenager’s voice on the line but the scammer/fake cop says the teenager was in an accident during the arrest (all the more serious); his/her head was banged up and he/she has a bloody lip; the child is not speaking so clearly and is only allowed to speak for an instant. Needless to say, desperately worried grandparents send money immediately.
Microsoft Help Desk scam. Scam callers represent they have received your request for assistance. To help solve your computer issues they need access to your computer and have you sit down and provide remote access to everything on your hard drive. Wow, be careful with that one.
If you receive a certified check as part of an unsolicited foreign transaction a/k/a Nigerian emails or from Russia or somewhere in Asia, trust me, the check is no good. Don’t “refund the money” until 180 days have passed and you have had your bank investigate; be sure to keep a copy of the check and even discuss it w/your branch manager at the time of deposit.
Remember the old adage, “To be fore warned is to be fore armed.” When receiving such a call, take a deep breath. Don’t give any personal information or money out. Take their information and call them back; it will likely be a number which is busy, unavailable or disconnected. Talk to your family or consult w/an attorney before you do anything.