As detectives we get a front row seat to all the latest and greatest (worst) scams out there. So we figured we’d share some of the more common ones we’ve seen both online, on the phone, and in person. Strap in. You won’t trust anyone after this…
1. The “Your family member is in jail” phone call
This one we see all the time. You get a call from a random number that claims to be your [fill in the blank] family member that’s now in jail. This is usually targeted at the elderly, so it’ll often be a grandchild that’s been in an accident, involved in a hit and run, or some other usually driving related crime that’s wound them up in jail. Sometimes the calls will be from their “attorney” who’s helping them before they see the judge. We’ve even seen it where the caller will claim it’s the grandchild themselves ,but they "sound different" due to the accident.
Now if you’re thinking to yourself who in the world would fall for this, well…a lot of older people. Here’s how they do it.
Here’s a mock-up of how the call goes:
Scammer: “Hello my name is Michael P. Thurman (or any very believable Lawyer’s name). I am sorry to inform you but your grandchild has been involved in a hit and run accident involving a pregnant woman. I am the attorney representing them in this very serious case”
Your sweet grandmother: “Oh my gosh Jeffrey! Is he okay??”
Scammer: “Yes Jeffrey is okay. He’s a little banged up but right now he’s in the [random county] jail awaiting arraignment in front of the judge. Luckily the pregnant woman is in the hospital but stable. He asked me to call you…the judge he’s going in front of is very harsh so I have to get to work fast. But luckily I happen to know this judge Jeffrey's going in front of and I can get him out on $10,000 bond, but it has to be today. The longer we wait the worse things will be!”
You can see where this is going...
Now from here they’ll ask for a check, cash, Bitcoin, gift cards, money orders etc.
The caller is usually very professional and seasoned at doing this, so you can see how this might actually work if you didn’t know any better. Especially when you tell them your grandchild's name without realizing it. So many people fall for that little trick because they think well "they knew Jeffrey's name so it had to be true, how else would they know it!?"
They’ll often say things like: time is of the essence or that you can’t tell anyone about this. These are all red flags!!
Ways to prevent this:
Teach your parents and grandparents about this scam!! If they know about it they might just save themselves thousands of dollars.
Have them start questioning the person.
“Tell me the name of the jail again”
“What were the charges, my brother’s an attorney/judge/policeman (whatever you want to say here just pick one) I’ll get him involved too”
If for some reason you think this situation could actually happen, don’t blindly trust the person on the phone. Get the name of the jail or arresting agency, and hang up. Lookup the phone number on your own and call them yourself. Or call the family member that is supposedly “in custody” for this crime. Chances are they’re at home asleep in bed.
Better safe than sorry....
2. Ruse Burglaries
Ruse burglaries are residential burglaries where the burglar(s) show up and try to trick the resident.
They will usually pretend to be from the water, gas, power, etc department from your city. They will wear yellow vests and even hard hats sometimes too! They will talk their way in and say they’re there to check a pipe or water line, property divider, anything in an isolated section of your house or yard.
One of the burglars will then lead the homeowner away from the main level and distract them by measuring things in the far end of the backyard or banging on pipes in the basement. They’ll pepper the homeowner with questions. All the while, the burglar’s buddies are upstairs raiding the bedrooms and main floor for jewelry, cash, electronics etc.
Ways to prevent this:
Notice what your city and local area trucks actually look like- do you see one parked out front? You'll probably see them all over town working on various projects. Notice- Are their trucks red, blue, green? Do they have the city logo on the side?
Are they wearing ID tags? Almost all city and utility workers are required to wear name badges with their photos displayed on them.
If they're not in an obvious city truck or not wearing an ID badge- politely tell them one minute and close & lock the door.
Call your local police or city and inquire about the worker or work being done. Do not let them inside or go outside with them until you know!!
3. Stop giving away personal information online.
Most people have done some version of this social media post.
Answering random questions on social media.
Be honest how many times have you answered theses types of questions for fun:
Who remembers their high school mascot?
What was the #1 song the year you were born?
Your gangster/rap/spy/porn/ etc name is the street you grew up on and your favorite color!
I passed my drivers test in a… [fill in the blank!]
Regardless of the question, think of the information you’re putting out there for free!
ie your birthday, the street you grew up on, your HS info, first car; whatever it may be.
While the answers may seem trivial and it’s all in good fun, in reality many of them are actually the security questions for various apps that your bank, email service, and more use to verify your identify!
Suddenly your new rap name, “Belmont Red”, doesn’t seem so important to post. It’s already easy enough to have your identity stolen, don’t give them anymore information than what’s out there already!!
Preventing this one is simple: don't posting anything on them at all. Harsh truth: no one cares and let's be honest isn't there something more productive you can be doing than figuring out your secret agent name based on the month you were born and the last thing you ate? If the CIA actually recruits like this then I'm disappointed
[just kidding CIA!] can't be too careful...
Oh and always turn on two-factor authentication!!
Two-factor authentication is where you can get an email or text when a new device tries to log into your account. You can make sure it’s you or a loved one, and not someone in another city/country. If it isn’t you attempting to log in then it’s time to change your password!
Some other scams to be on the lookout for and advice:
•There is no IRS sheriff and no one is coming to arrest you if you don’t send $1000 in Google play cards or Western Union money orders. The IRS will never call you to settle any tax issues. Never!!
•Never send money to anyone because you “won a contest” Yes you read that right you're paying them for winning... and people fall for it all the time. Someone will call you saying you won X Contest, but in order to claim your prize you need to send them the "taxes" or a "claim fee" or whatever clever word they use. Essentially they say you’ll get the prize, but only AFTER you send them the fee. Yes people actually fall for this. Tell your parents/grandparents about this one; they’re the likely targets.
•Don’t click any links you get in emails or texts without looking at the actual URL, sender, and check your account on an app if possible.
Start with the link. This is usually a dead giveaway if it’s a scam. Recently I got an email from Amazon stating my account had been hacked all I had to do to repair the issue was click the link and verify some information. Simple right? Well when I looked at the link it was something like Amz-ythy23na!@adjalksfjhlis-dhfa;ksdfj" you get the idea- it was crazy! Then I looked at the sender of the email (***the next piece of the puzzle to check to see if something is legit) and what do you know it was a gmail account absgwasixz1836239804 or something equally crazy like that. Well being the cunning detective I am I decided to just look at my account from Amazon's actual app and what do you know everything was just fine. Legit companies that have apps will often notify you through the app if there's an issue. When in doubt just change your password and make sure you don't see any strange orders/charges to whatever card is linked.
So if you get a link that feels off DON'T click it! Take the extra 60 seconds and look at the link, sender, and check the app if possible. 60 seconds can save you hours of hassle on the phone with your bank reversing charges you didn't make and cancelling credit cards. Trust me.
Honestly we could probably write a book on all the different scams that exist today. Imagine if that was your full time job, you'd get real creative too! Either way, take a little extra caution these days, if something seems too good to be true it probably is...
Share this with someone that could use a little extra heads up about these! Especially your parents and grandparents!
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