According to a telecommunications study of 50 billion telephone calls over an 18-month period, nearly four percent of calls in 2017 were fraudulent. In 2018, that number jumped to 29 percent of all calls. At that pace, the number of fraudulent calls is expected to rise to 44 percent of all calls in 2019.1
You may have noticed one of the latest techniques in spam telephone calls, termed “neighborhood spoofing.”2 This is when your Caller ID shows that the number is from within your area code. You may assume it’s a legitimate call from someone who is not in your contact list, such as your child’s teacher, a neighbor or a colleague. Instead, it turns out to be a telemarketer or scammer who could be located anywhere in the United States, or anywhere in the world.
A good rule of thumb is never give out any personal information over the phone. Don’t even verify your name or address. Tell the caller you will look up the number of the company or agency they’re calling from and give them a call back. Don’t rely on a number that they give you.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to protect yourself from scams. If anyone calls you regarding your insurance needs or policies, we urge you to contact us directly. Any changes to your insurance should be made within the context of your total financial picture, and we can help you with that. Please don’t hesitate to call us.
Just in time for health insurance enrollment season, some Blue Cross and Blue Shield state licensees are warning their customers about a nationwide robocall scam. Apparently, bad actors are making calls claiming to be Blue Cross and Blue Shield representatives marketing insurance products.3 Remember that when you purchase something over the phone, you need to be the one who initiates the call.
Online platforms also are vulnerable to scams. In September 2018, hackers broke into popular social media network Facebook and accessed the records of more than 50 million users. Information that was stolen included private messages, posts, likes, videos and photos. The hackers got in using the website’s “View as” feature, which had a bug allowing hackers to log in as the account holder. They could even use the same credentials to log in to those users’ Instagram and WhatsApp accounts.4
Remember chain letters that used to come in the mail? They claimed that if you sent a dollar to 10 people by mail that you’d get loads delivered back to you. Well, that technique has gotten a new facelift on social media platforms like Facebook. They begin by posting a request to buy a gift of $10 or more and to add your name to a list. Eventually, you’re supposed to receive 36 gifts. However, this is just another pyramid scheme that’s popular around the holidays. Not only are such posts illegal, by sharing your name on such lists that are forwarded to strangers, you may open yourself to the potential of identity theft.5
Then there’s the “grandparent scam,” in which criminals call and pose as a grandchild or other family member in distress, asking you to wire them money. They position it as an emergency, so you may be tempted to send the money immediately before realizing it’s a scam. The fraudster might even beg you not to tell anyone about it because he’s so ashamed. If you get such a call, experts advise not to send money. Ask the caller questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer, and if you’re concerned it might be a legitimate phone call, verify the situation in question by hanging up and calling or texting the family member in question directly or another family member.6
Another common scam that makes the rounds during winter is a phone call from someone posing as a representative of the electric, gas or water company, claiming you didn’t pay your utility bill. They threaten that if you don’t give them information to pay it over the phone, your service will be cut off by the end of the day. Here, too, experts say never to give personal or financial information over the phone; hang up and call the utility company directly if you are concerned.7
During the holiday season and into the New Year, please be extra wary of scammers looking to take advantage of your goodwill. You can report possible fraud to the Federal Trade Commission, at www.ftc.gov, or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.8