Biden warns of telephone scams

Caller ID spoofing used
July 1, 2014

Attorney General Beau Biden alerts Delawareans to be on the lookout for two telephone scams that have been reported to his office and appear to be on the rise in Delaware. The callers appear to be targeting the elderly, but Biden warned that all consumers may be at risk in these frauds.

“Criminals are always looking for new ways to manipulate consumers and defraud them,” Biden said. “That’s why we’re alerting the public to two recent scams featuring unsolicited phone calls to consumers. By recognizing the signs of a scam you’ll be better prepared to protect yourself against scams and fraud.”

In the first scam, consumers receive unsolicited phone calls from individuals who claim to be a member of local law enforcement or federal agent. The caller notifies the consumer that they have an unpaid parking violation or traffic ticket or owe a tax, and consumers report that the callers harass or threaten them with jail or fines in order to obtain personal data and debit/credit card information from them.

The scammers employ a tactic known as “caller ID spoofing” that falsifies the telephone number and name that appears on the consumer’s caller ID, including using the name of actual police officers, in order to appear legitimate. A similar phone scam was first reported by the New Castle County Police Department earlier this month.

Biden reminded the public that government agencies do not call people to collect fines. If someone receives a harassing call from an individual claiming to be a law enforcement officer and pressuring to pay a fine over the phone, hang up. Do not call back the number on caller ID. Instead, contact the actual government agency directly to inquire whether one owes an outstanding fine.

In a separate phone scam, consumers report receiving unsolicited calls from individuals who claim to represent a well-known computer company, such as Microsoft. The scammer claims that a damaging virus has been detected on the consumer’s computer that can be fixed remotely for a small fee.

After obtaining the consumer’s credit or debit card information over the phone, the scammer directs them to log into a secure website from their computer in order to initiate the repair. However, by logging into the site, the scammer remotely infects the consumer’s computer with a virus that collects personal data in order to commit identity fraud, plagues the machine with viruses, and crashes the computer.

To protect against this computer virus phone scam, never provide a debit or credit card number over the phone to unsolicited callers or allow a stranger remote access to a computer. Remember that companies will contact by mail if software needs to be updated and will not ask for a card number over the phone.

Delawareans who receive the unsolicited phone calls or other communications reported above, or other messages that they believe may be a scam should report those communications to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-220-5424 or emailing Delawareans who suspect that they have provided their bank card information to a scammer should immediately contact their financial institution.

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