Phone scams are telephone-aided scams perpetrated by fraudsters against Michigan residents. Phone scammers use telephone services such as live phone calls and text messages to coerce Michiganders into sending money to them or sharing sensitive personal information. They disguise their identities by impersonating government agencies, financial institutions, or persons who are familiar with the targets. Concealing their identities helps them to gain unfettered access to targeted residents and make scam pitches more believable.
To prevent Michigan residents from falling victim to phone scams, the Consumer Protection Unit of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office (AGO) periodically releases scam alerts. These help to educate residents on current phone scams and suggest ways of avoiding them. The AGO hosts an online complaint form on its website and is available for victims of phone scams for filing phone scam complaints. Websites that offer reverse phone lookup services can help Michiganders obtain identifying information on unknown callers and avoid scams.
Some of the prevalent scams identified by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office include:
- Job offer scams where fraudsters solicit money and personal information from unsuspecting residents in exchange for job opportunities that do not exist.
- Medicare scams take advantage of enrolment season. Scammers engage residents to get them to share Medicare card numbers for identity theft.
- In phone spoofing scams, fraudsters manipulate Caller IDs to display numbers of familiar legitimate businesses or government agencies to solicit money or request personal information.
- International sweepstakes and lottery scams where the promise of bogus winnings in foreign lotteries persuade targets to part with their money.
- Federal stimulus payment scams where fraudsters claim to be with a government agency in charge of federal grants and request money or personal data to disburse fake grants.
- Charity scams where fraudsters impersonate familiar charities and seek donations, which they end up diverting for personal use.
- Robocall scams involve using automated phone calls to contact Michigan residents to cheat them out of money and obtain sensitive information.
- Disaster scams occur after natural disasters. Scammers target unsuspecting residents who are desperate to execute repairs and steal from them.
- Grandparent scams where con artists pose as targets’ grandchildren and request immediate financial help from targeted residents to resolve emergencies.
- IRS scams, in which con artists claim to be IRS employees. They often accuse their targets of owing back taxes and demand immediate payments to avoid arrest.
What are Michigan Tech Support Scams?
Tech support scams target Michigan residents for rip-offs through their computers. Fraudsters pretend to be technical support staff of their targets’ computer companies to gain access to their computers for alleged mandatory repairs and bill them. Tech support scammers often contact their marks via live phone calls, emails, or pop-up ads on their monitors warning them about virus attacks. The callers convince them to grant them remote access to their computers to execute such repairs. These scammers install malware on their mark’s devices to steal sensitive personal information once they take control of computers. At the end of the feigned repairs, the callers usually refuse to release control of the computers back to their victims until they make payments. They typically receive payments via unconventional means like gift cards, prepaid debit cards, and wire transfers. With phone lookup, residents can retrieve information on unknown callers’ identities and avoid these scams. Following a recent occurrence of this scam, the Attorney General’s Office advised Michiganders to independently verify the identity of any tech support official before engaging with them. Victims of tech support scams can file online complaints with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.
What are Michigan IRS Scams?
In IRS scams, fraudsters impersonate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees and threaten targeted Michiganders with arrests for unpaid taxes. The callers are usually aggressive and will stop at nothing to get their targets to pay them or share personal information. They often threaten to arrest, deport, or jail hesitant marks. These scammers sometimes spoof the IRS Caller IDs to gain credibility and fool their targets. A popular variant of this scam targets residents’ personal information for identity theft. Fraudsters will contact targeted persons via live calls or robocalls and request that they confirm their personal information to file tax returns. Many of these scammers already have some data on their targets, making it easy to deceive them into revealing other sensitive information. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office, in a published alert, warned residents never to share personal information with anyone over the phone, especially if they did not initiate such calls. Michiganders can report IRS scams to the Attorney General’s Office by filing online complaints.
What are Michigan Grandparent Scams?
Elderly Michiganders are the primary targets of grandparent scams in the state. These scams are sometimes called emergency scams. Scammers take advantage of the love senior residents have for their relatives and pretend to be their grandchildren to extort them, usually by claiming to be in distress. The callers often claim they are in jail and need money urgently to post bail and avoid escalations of their cases. In other instances, they may say they were injured in road accidents and need money to pay medical bills. Once their target pays, the scammers often come back for more money, telling various lies until victims realize it is all a scam. The Attorney General Office issued an alert that referenced the experience of an elderly Michigan couple to educate residents on grandparent scams. The victims lost a total of $33,000 after making payments twice to persons who claimed to be their grandchildren and distressed. Michiganders should desist from making payments to relatives who claim to be in distress over the phone without first confirming such claims from other relatives. Persons who have been victims of these scams can file complaints online with the AGO.
How Do I Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Phone Scam?
- Avoid receiving calls from numbers you can not recognize. Many scam calls originate from unknown numbers, while some fraudsters engage in phone spoofing.
- Use phone lookup applications to retrieve information on unknown callers and block such numbers if you suspect a scam.
- Never give out personal information over unsolicited phone calls or via email to persons who claim to be with government agencies. Make sure to contact such agencies directly on their verified phone numbers to confirm callers’ claims.
- Do not succumb to aggressions or threats by persons who allege to be with government agencies or utility companies and requesting immediate payments. Initial contacts by these entities are usually by mail.
- Research charitable organizations who seek your donation before making payments to avoid being scammed.
- Be wary of business and investment opportunities that require urgent funding and scare you with limited offers. Legitimate investments will not pressure you into making on-the-spot decisions.
- Do not make upfront payments to any individual or agency to claim lottery winnings, especially if you did not enter such a contest.