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Telemarketing Fraud - Never Give Personal Information to Unknown Callers
The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.
Never Give Personal Information to Unknown Callers
telemarketing fraud limited ONLY by criminal's imagination
The stories change over time but the purpose and result of the call to the victim remains the same. The thief gains the victim's confidence and the victim divulges personal information. Victims are ashamed they fell for the bait and often do not report the crime to law enforcement, family, or even friends. Meanwhile, the thief uses the personal information to drain the victim's bank account, obtain credit in the victim's name, or commit some other crime.
Thieves frequently relay a sense of urgency, pretending to be bank or credit card officials, government employees, law enforcement, or other trusted professionals to fool victims into providing information. A few of the recent schemes used to lure information from victims include a story that the personal information is necessary for any of the following reasons:
There are even reports that criminals have become so bold that they call and report personal information is necessary because of a recent family tragedy. For instance, money is needed to rush a family member to emergency medical care or your personal information is necessary before you can get more information about a family member in crisis.
The Attorney General warns that in the face of negative publicity the scam artists often change the name of the company involved and modify the pitch, but the purpose -- to steal personal information -- remains constant.
Never give personal information to someone who calls
Con artists will lie, cheat, steal, and make up plausible stories to convince you to divulge sensitive information. The callers are often professional criminals who are skillfully able to get personal information before the victim has time to properly assess the situation.
In a recent twist on an old scam, con artists are using automated calls to "warn" consumers that they may be victims of fraud and need to confirm some information. The recorded message instructs consumers to call a toll-free number. When consumers call the toll-free number, they are greeted by another automated message. This time, the consumers are instructed to input their personal financial information.
The information requested may seem minimal -- for instance just the numbers off the bottom of your check or your Green Dot MoneyPak PIN number. Armed with these numbers, however, thieves can drain the funds from your bank account or MoneyPak card. Your Social Security number will allow a crook to obtain credit and charge thousands of dollars to your good name. Even information as simple as your maiden name or birthday can be used to rob you. And in this age of high tech scams, the crooks can literally be anywhere in the world when they obtain your personal financial information, making it extremely difficult to track the perpetrators.
THIEVES CHOOSE NUMBERS THEY WANT TO APPEAR ON CALLER ID
Technology available for purchase on the Internet allows crooks to use a fake caller ID to make bogus phone calls look like they are coming from a legitimate and trustworthy source to gain access to a victim's valuable personal information.
False caller ID numbers have been reported in connection with fraudulent calls claiming the potential victim missed jury duty and to avoid arrest or a fine must "verify" their Social Security number or other personal information. The calls may seem legitimate because the telephone number of the local courthouse shows up on the caller ID.
Con artists may also use false caller ID numbers to pose as debt collectors, sweepstakes officials, and utility company representatives. In each case, scammers call consumers to request payment of outstanding fees. To submit these fees, consumers are instructed to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak card, load it with funds, and provide the card number to the caller. Upon consumers’ submission of the number, their MoneyPak funds are immediately transferred to the scammer’s account of choice, and cardholders often never see their money again.
DEMAND DRAFTS -- WHY PROVIDING BANK INFORMATION IS A PROBLEM
When providing checking account numbers and bank routing numbers (numbers reproduced at the bottom of the check) over the phone, you are giving the caller the opportunity to withdraw money from your account as if you had written a check. In most states, including Michigan, you can pre-authorize a draft from your checking account. This occurs when you provide your checking account and bank routing numbers and authorize a certain amount of money to be withdrawn from your account. Your signature is not required for money to be drawn out of a checking account in this manner. Demand drafts closely resemble checks and are processed through the check clearing system, which handles millions of items daily.
Once you provide your account information to another person, you cannot control how that person uses the information. Accounts may easily be accessed by unauthorized demand drafts or for larger amounts than authorized.
IF YOU HEAR A STORY YOU BELIEVE . . .
If you receive a call that convinces you divulging personal information is necessary, STOP! If you feel you must divulge information, take the following steps:
TRADITIONAL WARNING SIGNS
A caller may tell you:
If you hear these (or similar) pitches just say "NO" and hang up the phone.
Additional Tips to Avoid Telemarketing Fraud
It's very difficult to get your money back if you've been cheated over the phone. Before you buy anything by telephone, or provide any personal financial information, remember:
Bank Account Information
If you mistakenly provide bank account information to a suspicious caller, take the following steps immediately:
As a precaution, always check your bank statements to make sure that there are no unauthorized payments. Report any unauthorized payments to the bank as soon as you detect them. In the case of unauthorized demand drafts, you may also wish to close the account to avoid any further unauthorized withdrawals by persons who have gained access to your account information. Be aware that con artists may sell your information to other bad actors.
If you mistakenly provide your MoneyPak PIN number to a suspicious caller, try the following options to obtain restitution:
Other Personal Information
If the information you provided is specific to an account, immediately call the security or fraud department of that company. Follow up in writing by certified mail return receipt requested and include copies (not originals) of supporting documents. You may wish to close the relevant account.
In addition, anytime you mistakenly provide personal information to somebody who calls, you should immediately place an initial fraud alert on your credit report for at least 90 days. When you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies.
You can place the initial fraud alert by contacting the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report too.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
Once you get your free credit report, review it carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain. Check that personal information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct. If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. For instructions, see the "Resolving Specific Problems", "Correcting Fraudulent Information in Credit Reports" section of the Federal Trade Commission's booklet, "Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft" available at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt04.shtm or by calling toll free 1-877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338); TTY: 866-653-4261.
FREE ANNUAL CREDIT REPORTS
For more information on your right to obtain annually one free credit report from each credit reporting agency, regardless of circumstances, see the Attorney General's alert "Free Annual Credit Reports - What Consumers Should Know" available on the Attorney General's website or by using the contact information provided below. Free annual reports are available by calling toll free 1-877-322-8228.
REDUCE TELEMARKETING CALLS
REPORT TELEMARKETING FRAUD
Contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:
Consumer Protection Division
Toll free: 1-877-765-8388
www.michigan.gov/ag (online complaint form)
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