Phone scams aren’t just out to get the elderly

Especially that kid we just sent off to college.

And said kid could be a mark just by responding to a text message from an unknown phone number, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’soffice warns.

That’s the latest scam out there.

“Students are particularly susceptible to this type of scam,” Morrisey said. “As they go off to college, they meet lots of people and can quickly make new friends.”

Except when that unfamiliar number they respond to turns out to be a scammer and not a new classmate.

A response to that “Hey, call me” request might result in a hidden fee for placing the call.

“Or, they could end up connecting with a person who uses high-pressure tactics to try and get the student’s banking information,” Morrisey said.

Clicking on a link could mean being routed to an official-looking “spoof” site designed to pilfer Social Security numbers and other pertinent day-to-day data, the attorney general said.

The rule of thumb(s), if you’re the student?

  • Don’t respond to the message or number if you don’t know who sent it.
  • Don’t respond to the message if you’re asked to key in any financial or personal information and delete the request immediately, the office recommends.

The attorney general’s office receives about 6,000 complaints a year from West Virginia residents who say they have either been scam victims or targets. Pinpoint Security, an Atlanta-based firm that fights phone fraud, says more than 86 million scam calls are logged every month across the U.S.

That’s one in every 2,200 calls, notes the firm, known for its annual “State of Phone Fraud” compilation.

Credit card scams. “Urgent” calls about audits with individuals on the other end of the line pretending to be agents with the Internal Revenue Service. And more.

If college students are ripe for the scam-picking, their grandparents have always been at the top of the list for the people who have no hang-ups about procuring funds by criminal means.

Don’t bank on that call

Monongalia County Sheriff Al Kisner remembers a rash of calls a few months ago across the county targeting senior citizens that were particularly upsetting to some grandparents.

“They’d pick up the phone and there would be this ‘lawyer’ claiming that their grandchild was in jail somewhere out of state,” he said.

Not to worry, though, the voice on the other line said, as the sheriff recounted. A personal check or cashier’s check, sent to a certain address, would post bail.

“Sometimes, they’d even put a young-sounding person on the line to ask ‘grandma’ for the money,” Kisner said.

The targeted person, though, always has the last call, Kisner said, just by staying calm and measured.

“If that happens, you want to hang up the phone,” he said. “Or you can call family members to find out for sure what’s going on, if you’re uneasy.”

Same for the scam-calls on the other end of the emotional scale, he said. The ones telling you that you won the lottery. That is, of course, after you send in a small sum of money for a “processing” fee.

“If you come into an inheritance or something like that, no lawyer is going to call you on the phone and ask you to send money so you can get money,” Kisner said.

Which makes him want to go from college to a lesson that comes from kindergarten.

“It’s like we were always taught: If it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

Listen to the sheriff, Tim Broyles, an assistant vice president and bank security officer of Clear Mountain Bank, said. And remember the protocol.

“Your bank will never ask you for confidential information through the telephone or a text message,” Broyles said.

“These things only work if you provide your information to the scammers.”

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