5 On Your Side

Don't fall victim to these common phone and email scams

Posted March 3, 2021 5:46 p.m. EST
Updated March 4, 2021 8:01 a.m. EST

— Phone and internet scams use current headlines like COVID-19 vaccines and tax season as ploys to steal your money. That’s why state leaders hope to make seniors more aware of those and other high tech threats aimed at their savings.

In a March 1 phone conference, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall offered their expert advice to AARP members in the state.

One caller expressed her frustration about the number of phone calls she receives outside of friends and family. "For those of us who are on Do Not Call lists, this is even more aggravating," she said.

In response, Stein said callers "don’t care that you’re on the Do Not Call list" because "they make billions of these phone calls."

Marshall offered some basic steps to avoid being taken advantage of.

"Never ever give your credit card or bank account information over the phone or e-mail," she warned.

Both Stein and Marshall warn that scammers’ pitches are often tempting.

"One man called me and said I won $25 million," another AARP member said during the phone conference.

The voice on the other side of the line said all she had to do was mail in $2,000 on a gift card to cover taxes and the prize would be sent to her. She did not bite the bait.

That’s another important way to avoid scams, according to Stein.

"If anybody calls you asking for gift cards, you know they’re a criminal."

Stein said scammers steal hundreds of millions of dollars from Americans every year, and many sound like they are from the government. That was the experience of another AARP caller, who said, "They were going to go put $500 in my debit account. Is that a scam?"

Stein advised AARP members to be cautious and skeptical. He said real government representatives will send a notice or request through the mail.

"They will not call you," said Stein.

Your email is another target. The state leaders said scammers can send a message to your e-mail loaded with a ransomware or malware virus. If you click on it, it can cripple your device.

"Then, potentially, they’ll ask you for payment to unfreeze your computer. Never click a link from somebody you don’t know. Never click it," warned Stein.

Stein said many scammers operate outside of the United States and through internet-based phone services to avoid detection and law enforcement efforts.

If you have a question about a suspicious caller or mail offer, you can call the state Attorney General’s office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

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