Tennesseans Lost Millions to Scammers and Fraudsters Last Year
April 7th, 2017 by Attorney John Colvin
A new report shows criminals defrauded Tennessee residents of nearly $11 million last year. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, of the 50 states, Tennessee ranked ninth in reports of fraud or scams.
The most common scams, in Tennessee and nationwide, are those that involve alleged debt collection. These scams typically involve a thief who poses as a debt collector or IRS agent and calls a person to demand payment for a debt, with the threat of arrest and jail time if the person doesn’t pay immediately. The caller might ask for a pre-paid debit card, a wire transfer, or the victim’s bank account information – all telltale signs that the caller does not represent a legitimate business.
To protect yourself from scammers and identity thieves, it’s important to understand how they operate. The following information may give you some insight about how these criminals find their victims.
Around tax time, scammers step up their efforts to trick people into paying them for bogus tax debts. But the IRS says it never calls taxpayers to demand immediate payment – if you do owe taxes, the IRS will mail you a bill first. The IRS also will never ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or ask people to pay their taxes with a specific form of payment, such as a pre-paid debit card.
Scammers know that creating a sense of urgency will motivate some victims to make a payment right away. However, any legitimate debt collector should be willing to let you hang up the phone and call them back. If a caller claims to be a debt collector and won’t agree to your calling back, hang up anyway – it’s probably a scam. In the meantime, search for the company name online, and check the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker to see if other people have reported a similar scam.
The Scam Tracker shows that one type of scam has become more common in early 2017. Two people in Winchester and two in Tullahoma reported someone calling them and asking, “Can you hear me now?” When you say yes, the caller says you are obligated to buy something or that you’ve won a prize or vacation package.
Targeting the Elderly
Scammers often target older people, because they think senior citizens may be isolated or lack the resources to investigate whether a scam call is legitimate. The Scam Tracker reports two such incidents in which elderly Tennesseans lost money:
- A company called an 85-year-old woman who lives in an assisted living facility, claiming to have medication for her. The woman mistakenly thought the caller had the mail-order medicine she regularly takes, so she paid the company $600. She received a box of Human Growth Hormone, and paperwork inside the package said the “medicine” could not be returned.
- A woman receiving Social Security income was scammed out of $130 by a company that claimed they would give her a $1,200 loan. The representative for the phony lender asked the woman to make her first loan payment in advance, by buying an iTunes card, loading it with $130, and sending it to the company.
Criminals who are able to get your personal information – your Social Security number, in particular – may be able to get a loan or credit card in your name, or even file taxes, claiming to be you. Your employer, bank, and mortgage company need your Social Security number, but few other businesses do. You don’t even have to give your doctor your Social Security number.
Be cautious about sharing your personal information, and make sure you use unique and complex passwords for all your online accounts. Don’t use pet names, children’s names, your birth date, or any other easily discoverable fact as part of your password.
John R. Colvin, Attorney at Law, has successfully represented clients throughout Tennessee and Alabama who have fallen victim to fraud. For advice on how to proceed next or if you have any questions about this topic, call 1-931-962-1044 or submit this online form. Put his bold approach and client focus to work for you.