North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Watch out for telemarketers’ latest tricks

11/14/2011

If you’ve joined the Do Not Call Registry like millions of other North Carolinians, you probably get a lot fewer calls from telemarketers than you used to. While the Registry and other telemarketing laws have helped cut down on unwanted calls, telemarketing scammers continue to violate the laws and try to find new ways to steal your money and your personal information. 
 
We’re fighting the scams whenever we find them, but one of the best ways to fight fraud is to help you learn how to avoid it. Below are some of the latest tricks we’re seeing telemarketers use to try to scam unsuspecting consumers.
 
Getting you to call them
Instead of calling you, some telemarketing scammers have figured out how to get you to call them. Scammers who pitch bogus extended car warranties or promise too-good-to-be-true jobs as secret shoppers or overseas payment processors often operate this way. You’ll get a post card in the mail or an email encouraging you to call a number to learn more. 
 
Tip: Don’t respond to the mailings or emails. Once you do, you’re likely to get more fraudulent offers. 
 
Contacting you by text message
We’re continuing to see a rise in text messages sent to consumers, saying that your debit card has been deactivated or trying to sell you things like lower mortgage payments and payday loans. Some recent text scams originate in Russia, while we’ve traced others to England and other countries.
 
Tip: Don’t respond to suspicious texts. If you suspect a problem with your bank account, contact your bank at a number you know to be valid. And remember that it’s illegal in North Carolina for anyone to charge you an upfront fee for help getting a loan, lowering your interest rate or reducing your debts.
 
Claiming to be tech support
Scammers claiming to be with Microsoft or Windows are calling consumers to offer help with their computer problems. The phony tech specialists claim that the consumer’s computer has a virus and then direct the consumer to take a series of steps to fix the problem. Following the steps actually gives the scammer access to all data stored on the consumer’s computer. The caller may even demand payment for installing the “security software.”
 
Tip: Computer and software companies don’t make unsolicited calls offering tech support. If you get one of these calls, don’t follow the instructions. For real tech support, contact the computer or software company at a number you know to be valid.
 
Threatening you
Some consumers have reported that telemarketers have threatened them or their loved ones with violence.   The callers usually claim that the consumer owes money, but the debts are entirely bogus. In other cases, lottery and sweepstakes scammers threaten consumers if they stop sending money. The callers usually warn not to report their threats to anyone. One woman in central North Carolina attempted to fight off the threat by saying she was headed to the police station for protection.  The scammer said he would meet her at the police station and kill her and the police. 
 
Tip: If a telemarketer ever threatens you with violence or frightens you, hang up and report the call immediately to law enforcement.
 
 
Getting you to send them money in new ways
For many years, most telemarketing scammers tried to get you to wire money to them, often overseas. Of course, once victims send off their hard-earned money, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. To make it harder for scammers to rob consumers, we won important agreements with the major wire service companies and pressured payment processors to stop enabling the scam artists. Now some scammers are finding other ways to get your money. 
 
Some scammers posing as lottery and sweepstakes officials are asking victims to purchase gift cards or Green Dot cards and then read off the numbers on the cards to them.  The scammers counterfeit the card in Jamaica or the United Kingdom and drain all the money that’s been credited to the card.
 
Overseas scammers also get victims to mail checks to U.S.-based “money mules” who then forward the funds to the scammers.   We recently helped Virginia authorities bring criminal charges against alleged Virginia Beach “money mules” who were working with Jamaican fraudsters and recovered money for some North Carolina victims in the process.  We also helped investigate three Canadians who are now being prosecuted in federal court in Raleigh. They allegedly used someone based in Raleigh to collect funds from elderly scam victims around the U.S. 
 
Tip: Never agree to wire, transfer or otherwise send money in order to claim a prize or sweepstakes winnings. Anyone who demands an advance fee for a prize is trying to scam you.
 
Help us keep up with the latest scams
If you spot a possible telemarketing scam, let my office know about it. Call my Consumer Protection Division toll-free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM, or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.
 
And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for the Do Not Call Registry. To add your home and cell phone numbers to the list, just call 1-888-382-1222 from the number you’d like to register. You can also sign up online as long as you have an active email address by visiting www.donotcall.gov. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll know to be skeptical of any telemarketer who continues to call. If they call in violation of the Do Not Call Registry, let our office know.