Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha is warning Rhode Islanders to be cautious in the wake of a recent scam that “spoofs” the Caller ID information of the Attorney General’s office and targets the elderly. WPRO’s Matt Allen spoke Thursday with Special Assistant AG Molly Cote about ways to prevent being taken advantage of. LISTEN BELOW:
“We have warned Rhode Island consumers about the so called “Grandparent Scam” in the past, which targets the elderly and involves the caller posing as a grandchild or relative in urgent need of money,” said Attorney General Neronha. “We were recently notified that many of these calls display the phone number of the Attorney General’s office on the Caller ID. Rhode Islanders should rest assured that no one from the Attorney’s General office will be calling them to ask for money. Anyone receiving such calls should hang up immediately and not share any personal information with the caller.”
What is the “Grandparent” Scam?
This scam usually starts with a phone call – a con artist posing as a grandchild or a person calling on behalf of a relative in trouble and in urgent need of money. In some cases, scammers have even posed as a police officer or an attorney. But in every case, the caller claims that an emergency has occurred and requests that money be sent immediately via wire transfer. Sometimes the caller claims to be a lawyer or a close friend of the child/relative, whose alleged problems range from being in prison in a foreign country, to being in a car accident, missing a wallet, losing an airline ticket, or having a credit card stolen while traveling. Scammers often target the elderly in these calls.
What is Caller ID Spoofing?
According to the FCC, Caller ID spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally, but also can be used legitimately, for example, to display the toll-free number for a business. Robocallers now use “neighbor spoofing,” which displays a phone number similar to your own or to a neighbor or local business or government entity in an effort to trick you into answering the call. To learn more, see: www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/spoofing-and-caller-id.
To help you avoid being scammed, Attorney General Neronha offers the following tips:
• Do not answer calls from unknown numbers.
• Avoid volunteering information over the phone.
• Ask callers to identify themselves by name.
• Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes” or “No.”
• Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
• Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
• If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
• Ask for information that only you and people close to you would know. A real relative will not have a problem answering questions, but a scammer may not know that information.
• Using a phone number you know to be genuine, call the relative or friend claiming to need your help to confirm whether the story is true. If you aren’t able to contact them, call other friends or family members to confirm the situation. Refuse to send money via wire transfer.
• If you have wired money and it hasn’t been picked up, call the wire transfer service to cancel the transaction. Once the money has been picked up, there is no way to get it back.
• Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls. Information on available robocall blocking tools is available at fcc.gov/robocalls.
Contact the Rhode Island Attorney General’s consumer protection unit at 401-274-4400 or visit www.riag.ri.gov if you feel you have been the target of a scam.