Phone Scammers are Striking Locally


Are you among the millions of Americans who have fallen victim to phone scams? A recent report from TrueCaller has revealed that over 68 million Americans have lost money in 2022 solely to these fraudulent schemes, with one in three people being targeted at some point. And if you think getting scammed once is bad enough, imagine being targeted repeatedly – 20% of victims report being targeted more than once. These alarming statistics highlight the growing prevalence of phone scams and the need for consumers to be vigilant of the dangers of unknown phone calls.
I set out to talk to a range of people affected by phone scams to see what their experience was like, and I discovered that many people I know have been affected by phone scams.
First, I spoke with my aunt, Dr. Vanessa Robb, who got a call one day from the Newington Police Department’s actual phone number, claiming that she had failed to appear as an expert witness in a federal court case and had been issued citations for contempt of court. On the call, they went into great detail about this supposed “case” and claimed there was a signed subpoena that was given to her on Feb. 22, at 1:54 p.m. The scammers used real officer and judge names, as well as her personal information, which made the scam seem more legitimate. The scammers requested Dr. Robb to come to the police department to verify her signature. She was confused at first but complied with their requests because at the time it was hard to know if it was a scam.
On the way to the police station, the scammers said they needed her to go to a Walmart and request a bond payment to freeze the citations. Dr. Robb did not feel comfortable stepping inside and therefore told the caller that she was going to go to the police station first. She started driving and the caller told her that she was disobeying police orders and demanded that she turn around or else she would be in deep trouble. This was when she realized it was definitely a scam. She continued her way to the police station and the caller finally told her that it was just a “prank.” Dr. Robb was relieved that the call was not real and that she avoided getting scammed. She felt more educated about phone scams after the experience
Although she was never asked for any personal information or money, the fact that the scammers had done their research and mimicked the police department’s phone number was concerning. This story serves as a reminder to be cautious of elaborate phone scams and to always verify the information before taking action.
Scammers have become increasingly sophisticated in their tactics to steal money from unsuspecting individuals, especially those who are not as tech-savvy and those of older age demographics. This was the case for a grandparent of a student at KO who wishes to remain unnamed, who almost fell victim to a phone scam in early April. The caller posed as her bank and requested that she withdraw several thousand dollars from her account. The caller instructed her to go to a specific bank location in West Hartford to withdraw the money. She was also told to send her bank information in order to help them fix her account. The grandmother was hesitant but drove to the bank and spoke with a teller who explained that it was a scam. Thankfully, the grandmother did not withdraw any money.
I spoke to the granddaughter, who attends KO, and she was unsettled by how close her grandmother was to being scammed. “They’re just really scary because I feel a lot of these scams are really targeting older people just because they probably are not as tech-savvy,” the granddaughter said. “We were lucky that the bank teller was so kind to her and that she was smart enough to go there, but it really could have gone poorly. So, it was just a very scary situation.”
Fortunately, in this case, the grandmother was able to avoid falling victim to the scam with the help of the bank teller. However, the situation serves as a reminder to always be cautious when receiving unsolicited calls and to verify any requests with the appropriate institution or organization before taking action.
Receiving a phone call from a government agency claiming to be investigating you can be quite unnerving, as my mom, Dr. Julie Schiff, experienced on March 6, 2023. The call was from someone claiming to be from the Drug Enforcement Association (DEA) and was forwarded to her by an employee at her front desk. The caller said that there had been an investigation taking place for the last 40 days and they needed to talk to her about this ongoing investigation, in which she was supposedly involved. Her staff member, Marissa, informed her that it was likely a scam and provided a phone number to call back.
Dr. Schiff googled the name, Greg Mallard, and found that he was the head of the DEA in the El Paso division, but the phone number’s area code was from Virginia which was questionable. Dr. Schiff did not provide any personal information and reported the incident to the DEA. She was grateful that her employee sent her the call and did not give the caller any information.
With phone scams becoming increasingly prevalent, it’s crucial to know how to spot them and protect yourself from becoming a victim. Scammers are constantly coming up with new tactics to deceive people, making it difficult to differentiate a scam call from a real message. However, there are several measures you can take to avoid phone scams and protect yourself from fraud.
Dr. Robb said that if you are not absolutely positive about who the person calling you is, then you should not let them have any information about yourself that could get you into any problems. “Just don’t give any personal information or send money anywhere, or you could get yourself into trouble,” she said. Even if the phone number is correct or the person calling you says that they are a reputable person, it does not mean that you should trust it, since phone scammers continue to grow more intelligent in finding ways to scam their victims.
The Kingswood Oxford student also believes that there are ways you can avoid yourself and others getting phone scams. “I think it’s really important to talk to the people in your life who might not be as tech-savvy and just inform them about phone scams because they really are targeting a lot of different people,” she said. “I would also say if you get called and the person is posing as a corporation or a bank, call the actual corporation first and confirm if it’s real because sometimes it is real and there are things that you need to do, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
Dr. Schiff says to hang up and call the official organization using their official phone number to verify the legitimacy of the call in order to make sure that you do not give up any personal information that could lead to you getting scammed. Many times, phone scammers will try to get money or information out of you by scaring you with situations you could be in trouble for. “If it’s super-official, then they’re probably not going to call you,” Dr. Schiff said.
Be cautious of unknown phone callers and make sure that the person calling you is who they really say they are. Callers are becoming very intelligent in faking their identities. As long as you do not give any of your personal information, you should be able to avoid and recognize phone scams.