HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane wants to warn residents about several phone scams that have been reported recently.
The scams involve callers who use sophisticated computer technology to mask their true identity in order to defraud consumers.
Using "caller ID spoofing," those making the calls are hard to locate, and if consumers transfer money, it can be difficult to recover, according to a news release.
The most recent scams include:
Debt collection scam
This is a new twist on an old scam.
Callers threaten consumers that they owe an old debt, but the new twist: callers claim to be with the Office of the Attorney General.
The OAG would never initiate such a call, the attorney general said.
The caller will threaten that the consumer will be arrested and charged with theft by deception if payment by credit card or money transfer isn't made within 24 hours.
These calls have also been made by people who also claim to be representatives of the Internal Revenue Service, and that unpaid taxes are due.
If you receive a call saying you've won a sweepstakes, but need to send money to cover processing fees and taxes--it's a scam!
These scammers claim to be from well-known companies such as Microsoft, and tell consumers that they've detected viruses or other malicious software on the consumer's computer.
Then, to build the consumer's confidence, the scammer will retrieve a 'serial number' that's actually just a product code number associated with any computer that uses Microsoft or other operating system.
Since most consumers don't realize this is just a random 'serial number,' they assume the scammer is actually legitimate, and believe there is a virus on their computer, and then turn over login and password information.
Some scammers even ask for credit card information to pay for the 'services rendered.'
Electricity shut-off scam
In this scam, utility customers receive calls from con artists, pretending to be utility collection representatives, threatening that electricity will be shut off if the consumer fails to obtain a green dot card or wire money.
"Green Dot Cards are legitimate and common reloadable debit cards that can be used by consumers to pay bills. These prepaid cards are often preferred by scammers as they do not have to retrieve the funds in person, as they do with a wire transfer. All the scam artist needs is the number on the Green Dot Card, and the funds can be accessed remotely," said Kane.
Avoid becoming a victim
AG Kane recommends the following steps to avoid becoming a scam of these or other phone scams:
• Never give out personal information over the telephone.
• Never give out billing information over the phone, especially if you receive an unsolicited telephone call from a stranger.
• Never wire money or purchase green dot-type prepaid cash cards in response to a telephone appeal, whether it is from a stranger or someone who claims to know you.
• Never let emotion or fear overcome your common sense. If you get a call for money from a friend or relative, slow down and verify everything. Don't let anyone rush you.
• Never give out sensitive information to anyone on the phone unless you initiated the call to a company you are certain is legitimate.
File a complaint
If you think you've been scammed, you can file a complaint by calling the Bureau of Consumer Protection's toll-free helpline number at 1-800-441-2555 or online at www.attorneygeneral.gov.
Allentown, PA 18102