Idaho is experiencing an increase in imposter phone scams

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BOISE — The number of phone scams that are targeting people in Idaho are increasing, the state’s Attorney General’s Office says.

Brett DeLange from the Idaho Attorney General’s office says if you receive a call that you think is a scam, hang up and ignore the caller.

But how can you tell if the call is a scam? There are many red flags, including threats that come someone saying they are from a government office.

“Anybody that calls you pretending to be from the government and says they want a payment, that is not how the government works,” said DeLange.

There are also scams that tug at the heart strings of people attempting to get money by saying they are supporting firefighters, veterans or different charities.

“Idahoans are generous people, and they are willing to help,” said Delange. “We all need to be careful about our donations and make them really work.”

When callers ask you to give them money in unusual ways like gift cards or Western Unions transitions, you should be aware something funky is happening.

“That’s more than a red flag — that’s a red hurricane,” said DeLange.

You also should not be intimidated into making an immediate decision if a caller is pressuring you to make a quick reaction. Take some time to talk to somebody before making any decision.

6 on Your Side received an email from the Attorney General’s Office that outlines the different type of scams and how people in Idaho can protect themselves against these criminals.

The following scams – or variations of them – are common in Idaho:

Grandparent scam: This scam targets grandparents. A caller poses as a grandchild in legal trouble, often in a foreign country. The caller asks the grandparent to help get them out of trouble by sending money via gift cards, money order, iTunes cards, etc.

IRS scam: A caller purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service claims the target owes back taxes. The tax problems will disappear, the scammer says, if the recipient of the call pays the taxes via gift cards, iTunes cards, etc. NOTE: The IRS initiates contact via U.S. mail. If you receive a call from someone saying they’re from the IRS, hang up. If you have any concerns about your taxes, initiate contact with IRS to inquire.

Social Security Number scam: A caller pretends to be a government official or law enforcement officer and claims someone in another state is using the target’s Social Security number. The caller may even be able to recite the last four digits of the target’s SSN. The recipient of the call is then asked to share the rest of the SSN to confirm that the “official” on the other end of the line has made contact with the correct person. The main goal of this particular scam is to steal the victim’s identity.

Idaho Power/utilities scam: This scam usually targets small businesses – often restaurants. A scammer pretends to be from the utility company and, because of past-due bills, threatens to cut off service unless payment is made immediately. Idaho Power encourages recipients of these calls to hang up and call its customer service line at (208) 388-2323.

Publisher’s Clearing House scam: The caller tells the target they’ve won the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes or another, similar prize. In order to cover the related fees and taxes upfront, the “winner” must send money – often several thousand dollars – right away.

Arrest warrant scam: The caller claims a warrant has been issued for the target’s arrest, but if he or she pays the imposter, the warrant will disappear.

Jury duty scam: The caller pretends to be a local official notifying the recipient of the call that they recently missed jury duty. In order to avoid large fines and/or stiffer punishment, the target must send payment immediately.

Microsoft/Apple tech scam: A scammer calls the victim and claims the person’s computer is infected with a virus. The call may come after the victim clicks on a link on Facebook and a popup warning appears on the computer screen. The scammer pretends to be with “tech support” and promises to fix the computer for payment, often $499. A consumer should never click on questionable links that pop up and claim the consumer’s computer is infected.

Payment form is a huge red flag

If you’re being asked to send payment in the form of gift cards, iTunes cards, prepaid cards from companies like Visa, Mastercard or Green Dot, you’re almost certainly the target of a scam. Scammers prefer these types of payments because they’re untraceable and impossible to recoup, Wasden says. Though an older trick, some scammers also ask for wire transfers through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram.

What are other signs of scams?

Many scammers are located overseas, and English is not their primary language. Broken English and oddly worded messaging are signs you’ve been contacted by a scammer. Also, scammers often use computer-generated messaging in their phone calls. This is likely a means of trying to hide poor language skills or accents that might blow their disguise. Threats and pressure to act immediately are also telltale signs.

Whom do scammers target?

Everyone. But scammers tend to find more success with older people. Some scams, though, have been effective in targeting the young.

What to do if you’re contacted

Treat each call from an unknown number with skepticism. Let unknown calls go to voicemail and hang up on suspicious callers immediately.

Wasden: Help get the word out

“Please consider sharing this information with those who are most vulnerable,” Wasden said. “For instance, if you know of a senior who could be prone to the grandparent scam, consider having a conversation with them to make sure they understand how it works. Education is the most effective tool in combating imposter scams.”

The attorney general is also partnering with the Idaho State Broadcasters Association and radio stations across the state to raise awareness of imposter scams. The project will consist of an extensive Public Service Announcement campaign in the first quarter of 2019.

If you have questions about these or other scams, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (208) 334-2424 or toll-free at (800) 432-3545.

This article was originally published by KIVI. It is used here with permission.

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