Hundreds of Connecticut residents were called Thursday warning them of two imposter telephone scams that have ripped off people in the state: the fake IRS agent demanding delinquent tax payments and the tech guy who says your computer has a virus.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, last year 2,575 Connecticut residents were victims of these types of imposter scams.
Borrowing a favorite tactic of con artists, AARP Fraud Watch Network staff and volunteers operated their own telemarketing boiler room Thursday as part of a regional Fraud Watch Action Day. But instead of hearing from crooks, local residents received tips and information on how to protect themselves from scammers. Impersonating police officers, federal agents or financial service companies, scammers use their “authority” to scare a person into paying them. Or, they pretend to be a friend or loved one in trouble who needs money.
“Reverse Boiler Room” was a collaboration between the AARP Fraud Watch Network and regional attorney general offices. The effort brought together attorneys and volunteers from Connecticut, New York and throughout New England, who are trained in coaching people how to spot and avoid scams.
One of the most common imposer scams is southwest Connecticut is the one about a bogus IRS agent demanding payment for “back taxes” of face arrest. Last year, 43 Connecticut residents lost $726,524 in supposed IRS payments to the scammers, according to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The fake IRS agents told people that payment had to be made by a Green Dot MoneyPak card. Green Dots are reloadable debit cards and can be purchased off the gift card rack at most department, home improvement and convenience stores.
This July, a Stamford man lost $13,286 dollars after he sent money to the IRS scammer. The bogus agent phoned the victim at about 10 a.m. demanding money for back taxes. The man spent the next seven hours buying $13,286 worth of Reloadit and Moneygram cards, which have personal identification numbers that scammers ask their victims to provide. He also sent some of the money via Western Union. He then returned home, which was after his father had called police.
Stamford police were called by the man’s 68-year-old father at about 5 p.m. because he was worried about his son not returning home after giving him $5,000 to help pay his tax bill When officers questioned the man about the circumstances of the money exchange they realized it was a fraudulent call and turned the case over to the property crimes unit.
Then, there’s the other scam from a “tech support” person who says your computer has a “virus” and they need remote access to your computer to fix it.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network has developed a list to avoid getting ripped off from the two most common scams in southwest Connecticut.Know that the IRS does not:
call to demand immediate payment about taxes owed without first sending you a notification by mail,ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone,
threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for nonpayment.Tech scams
Scammers claim affiliation with Microsoft, “Windows,” computer manufacturers or others, but legitimate employees of those companies don’t make phone calls or send “personal” email warnings about an infection in a particular computer. When real threats are detected, a security update or warning is usually sent en masse - and directly to your computer by the manufacturer of the antivirus protection installed on your machine.
Unless you initiate contact with a trusted technology assistance firm like Geek Squad, never give strangers remote access to your computer. (They may get it by asking you to type a certain code, download a program they provide, or provide them with your username and password.)
Don’t be fooled if a phoning tech support scammer knows your name, address or even the operating system you’re using. Cybercrooks glean their targets through public phone directories and often “guess” your operating system by citing more popular ones.
At least once a week, check for updates in your security software and run scans several times a week.
State Attorney General George Jepsen said, “I encourage Connecticut's seniors to take advantage of the tips and advice that have been provided during AARP's Reverse Boiler Room to become better and more informed consumers. Consumers that are on guard and equipped with the facts can protect themselves from common scams. Knowing their rights as consumers can make all the difference when making purchases or engaging in financial transactions.”