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Despite Arrests, Phone Fraud Continues To Spike With Americans Proving To Be Easy Pickings

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It appears we are a wealthy and gullible nation. And those bent on exploiting our gullibility in order to get sizable chunks of that wealth are still doing a land-office business despite our rising rancor and some global law enforcement.

Having been around a little and come up in the analog world we have seen some world-class swindlers at work, effectively selling all kinds of worthless goods and services to people they convince need them. We are reminded of the San Francisco man who paid $500 for a then state-of-the-art plasma television that turned out to be nothing more than an overly taped box with two bricks inside.

That kind of deft con, once relegated to street corners or your seedier bars, has of course moved onto the internet and our phone lines, with all sorts of fast-talking callers interrupting our dinners to tell us we need to support law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, wounded war veterans or – our current fave – Dave the Gutter Guy (more on him later).

There’s the “Your Nephew Is In Jail” Con; the “I’m With The IRS And You Need To Pay Me” Con; variations of the old “Bait And Switch,” the “Lotto Scam,” and that old standby: “The Nigerian Prince.”

The wary among us recognize these cons for what they are and most of us hang up – or spend a little time torturing a former motorized rickshaw driver trying to convince us he’s an IRS agent with vague promises of a wire transfer – before we hang up.

It has gotten to be a kind of sport for some, dueling nightly with persistent callers armed with AARP phone numbers and some personal information determined to separate us from our money. Others, unfortunately, fall for it. And pay. And pay some more. And that is what keeps these people in business.

There have been some successes. International police have cracked down on boiler room phone operations scattered across Third World countries (and some here at home) who, for the cost of some phone equipment and lists of potential suckers purchased off the Dark Web, seem intent on badgering us into submission until we pay them something.

Robo-Callers like Dave the Gutter Guy call three, four, as much as six times a night – asking us to “Press 1” for additional information (doing so takes us to another “sales professional” usually hawking some other kind of useless service, sales offer, or scam.)

And while, yes, it can be fun pretending to be your hard-of-hearing but well-funded and IRS-fearing parent to bounce some hardworking boiler room scammer from one Western Union office to another in Mumbai or Florida or the Dominican Republic – after a while you realize there are more of them than there are of you and you just want it to end.

Right now, despite arrests and some successful prosecutions on the world scene, they are winning – separating one in every 10 American adults from at least $430 last year for a grand total of about $9.5 billion overall. That’s an increase of 56 percent from  2015.

Scammers are also getting more creative, using caller IDs that appear to be legitimate, such as showing the victim’s bank as the caller, in a scam tactic called “social engineering.” Another common scam: Callers posing as heating or electric companies – like Dave the Gutter Guy. That type of scam spiked 109 percent between 2015 and 2016 – with most of those calls coming to our house, apparently.

Residents of the 24/680, many of them elderly and unsuspecting, have sent tens of thousands of dollars to untraceable locations around the globe in kind-hearted efforts to get “Little Jimmy” out of jail in the Philippines or to help people “hurt by the hurricane in Puerto Rico.” And, of course, that money is gone forever once it has been sent.

So, some words of wisdom to our neighbors – don’t be a sucker. And if you happen to know where Dave the Gutter Guy lives, do give us a call. We’d like to have a chat with him.

8 COMMENTS

  1. It’s getting worse. did they really say that “branch office” had 700+ callers and it was only PART of a larger organization?

  2. My husband asked one to please stop calling and the guy laughed and told him to F himself. We have no sympathy and hope they are all caught and punished. We loved seeing this group rounded up and hope something actually happened to them.

  3. We have caller IID. If we don’t recognize a name and number, we automatically block the caller. All calls go to our answering machine (if we’re not home) and we never check the machine because it’s not worth checking. Too many telemarketers. Thanks to scammers, the telephone has turned into a harassment tool. You have to beat them at their own game, and not give them the opportunity to talk to you. We don’t need the aggravation. We actually have a lot of family and friends. They’ll “find us” eventually…

  4. Sir you are trying to suspect on me….. I mean, who would send money to someone who talked like that?

  5. As tempting as it is to “mess with” telemarketers, I’ve read articles where security consultants say “don’t do it.” I totally agree. They have your name, address, phone number, etc. and it could easily lead to retaliation. With today’s technology they could do a lot of damage to you, and you won’t know it until it’s too late. There were examples of people it happened to. Wow.

  6. The only reason I still pick up is to make sure it is not a random person that might be calling me in case my family got hurt etc. i just imagine that a loved one got in a wreck and they gave my number to an EMS or police officer to get ahold of me.

    Then, depending on my mood, if it is a scammer, I will mess with them. Or just hang up.

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