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phone scams
© Igor Tsarev |
Security & privacy

3 nasty new phone scams to watch for

Some of the most common scams are phishing emails or text messages with malicious links or attachments. Sometimes you end up on a spoofed login page, and if you enter your credentials, you’re handing them over to criminals. But that’s not always the case. Some prefer to pick up the phone and call potential victims.

Read on for three new phone scams to watch for and what you can do to stay safe.

Fake fee to release a prisoner

Aiming at families already dealing with the stress of an imprisoned loved one, scammers are making calls offering false hope. According to Jones County Sheriff’s Department in Mississippi, scammers phone family members with a lucrative offer.

Criminals claim that a jailed family member can be released from custody if they pay a fee. Naturally, the scammers have no authority to make such an offer or the power to release anyone. Unsurprisingly, once the payment is made and family members arrive at the state facility, correctional staff know nothing about it.

“So far, just (Friday), we’ve had four complaints come in. Some have paid up to $500, having them get pre-paid credit cards and sending them to accounts, which (are) almost impossible to track down,” explains JCSD Chief Deputy Mitch Sumrall.

False claim of fraudulent activity

In another scam making the rounds, criminals call a victim and pretend to be an employee of a bank’s fraud department. The scammer claims the bank has detected fraudulent activity on the victim’s account, and they must transfer funds to verify their identity.

There are variations to the scam, where some criminals tell the victim that their account is frozen due to irregular spending or purchases, and there is a small fee to unlock it. According to Nassau County Police in Long Island, a woman got conned out of $30,000 through this phone scam.

Pro tip: If you get a call about fraudulent activity, go directly to your bank or call the number on the back of your debit card for more information.

Paying a fee for fake fines

Beware if you ever get a call from someone who claims you have outstanding fines but can settle the matter by paying a small fee. This phone scam has been used before but seems a popular method for conning people again.

In this scam, criminals phone a potential victim and tell them they have outstanding fines, a warrant of arrest or administrative penalties. Luckily, all the legal issues can be quickly sorted out with a small fee. 

However, the scammers have no authority to do that, and the claims are entirely false. Relying on victims panicking, the criminals get them to wire money or send gift cards.  

According to the Camden police department in South Carolina, the criminals also spoof caller IDs. This is where they fake the phone number on the caller ID to reflect that of the police department. 

Pro tip: Even if the number seems legitimate, never pay anything with gift cards, cryptocurrency or wire transfer.

Ways to avoid falling for phone scams

Follow these simple rules to help avoid falling for phone scams.

  • Avoid answering unknown calls. Don’t answer or return calls from numbers you can’t identify. If the call is important, they will leave a message. Tap or click here for ways to block unwanted calls.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone if you don’t trust the person or can’t verify their identity.
  • If someone is pressuring you to act quickly in sending money, hang up. Speak to a relative or friend about the situation to get perspective.
  • Never send payment in any form to someone on the phone who you don’t know. Sure signs of a phone scam are when the caller asks for payment by gift card or a money wire.

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