How many readers have received a phone call that is clearly a scammer at the other end?
I just checked the BBB for phone scams and got their list of the top 10 scams. Even though this is Canada BBB, the list could apply anywhere in the world.
Not a big surprise that romance scams top the list. The BBB says “more than 22.5 million lost” because actual amounts will never be known. Many people looking for love are too embarrassed to admit they were scammed and won’t report to the authorities. Others believe that their “true love” will come through for them in the end and it’s just a misunderstanding, not a scam.
I’ve written a couple of articles about romance scams if you’d like to check them out:
Phone to extort money scams
Number 2 on the BBB list are income tax extortion scams, and we hear about these on the evening news from time to time. In Canada, our income tax is reported to the CRA, same thing as the IRS in the states. Typically the scammer calls and accuses the person who answered the phone of committing fraud when filing their tax return, and now they owe a specific amount of money. They can repay the amount they owe in iTunes cards (or similar gift cards) which should be the big clue this is not a government agency calling. The callers are very aggressive and threaten to send the police to come and put you in jail.
Victims of these crimes come from all ages and backgrounds, but some groups are more vulnerable. Seniors can become easily confused and might be coerced into paying. Also immigrants, especially if they came from countries with corrupt governments and police departments, might be easily scammed out of their money.
People can get tricked out of thousands of dollars. Think it’ll never happen to you because you’re too smart to get scammed? Don’t be so sure! Here are some stories that were covered by Global TV news:
Just about everyone who’s not a grandparent has heard about this scam. The caller says “Grandma. I’m in trouble. I have an emergency situation.” This probably only works if the person answering the phone asks the caller “Is that you, John?” And the caller says, yes and launches into their story about being in jail and needing bail money. Or stranded in a foreign country and needs to buy a ticket home. And of course – don’t tell mom and dad!
On August 27, 2019 my cell phone rang. I looked down at the call display and it was a toll free number.1-800-124-0220. I don’t usually answer toll free numbers because they’re tend to be telephone solicitors or scammers. Neither I want to talk to! The number looked weird so I answered it (what was I thinking?!) and it was a recording already in progress. A woman said she was from Service Canada and accused me of committing fraud and I was in legal trouble and going to be arrested. I hung up.
Service Canada is where Canadians apply for the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security. I’m not old enough yet! It’s unlikely a person would be able to commit fraud on either of these programs. The CPP is calculated based on income during your work life that your employer reports and pays into. Old Age Security is a set amount that all Canadians are eligible once they turn 65. The current benefit is $607.46/month. It doesn’t matter if you worked or how much your earned to collect the set amount of OAS. The big requirement is by the age of 65 to have lived in Canada for 40 years after age 18. Yay for me! I’ve put my time in!
Yes, I can look forward to receiving this money one day! Today I receive zippo benefits. Therefore, it’s very difficult for me to commit fraud.
Occasionally it hits the news about CPP or OAS fraud. Usually due to a person collecting benefits passed away and the spouse or child didn’t inform Service Canada. The money kept rolling in. Why end a good thing? Free money from the government. Uh, no, that would be fraud and eventually they’ll catch up with you.
While writing this article, a call came through from 1-800-737-3321. I sent it to voice mail. Imagine my surprise a minute later when I get a ding a message was left. I listened. Sounds like the same woman on the recording, already well into yapping about legal action and getting arrested and to press 1 to speak to an officer. Delete!
If you get a call from 1-800-124-0220 or 1-800-737-3321, don’t answer it. And if you do, don’t believe it! Scam phone call! Block those buggers!
Here’s the thing. Service Canada is a government agency headquartered in Ontario, 3 hours ahead time difference. They’re off shift at 4 or 4:30pm. These are government union employees. They’re not working late to make phone calls to other parts of the country! They’re also not using a recording. It’ll be a real live person who will tell you what the issue is.
Edited this post to add 1-800-144-9684 to the scam Service Canada phone numbers. Blocked!
More scam phone calls
These scammers who make phone calls to extort money have the technology to spoof phone numbers, or otherwise show a fake phone number on the call display. Sometimes the phone rings, I check the call display, and it shows New York, Maine, Florida, wherever, plus a phone number. I don’t know anyone in those states so I’d let the answering machine pick up. Messages are rarely left. If a message is left, it’s already partway through the scammer’s spiel.
Chances are the scammers behind the phone calls aren’t even in North America.
March 15, 2015 was a bad day. My father was dying in the hospital from pneumonia. The doctor told me that morning that my father would probably pass away within 24 hours, and for sure within the next 48 hours. It was Sunday night and at 10pm the phone rang, rattling my nerves. I must have jumped two feet high.
This is the call I’ve been dreading since I left the hospital.
The call display said Michigan and a phone number.
What the hell?! These scammers have no boundaries.
I was angry. Mostly I was angry that my father was dying and I couldn’t do anything. Not angry at him. He couldn’t help being sick. Just angry that the treatment didn’t work.
And really angry some scammer chose that sad time in my life to harass me.
I answered the phone.
A woman started talking in what sounded like a Pakistani accent.
“Do you know what time it is?” I yelled. Then I proceeded to curse her out like she’s probably never heard before. Yes, I learned to swear from the best – barn workers in the backstretch of racetracks!
Like I said I was angry. The phone call freaked me out, thinking it’s the hospital with the news I don’t want to hear, and instead I’m dealing with a late night scam phone call.
I was able to release some of my anger through cursing her out, except she hung up on me before I was done. How rude of her! She phones me late at night to try to scam me and then she hangs up on me just cause she doesn’t like what I have to say.
I can tell you I wouldn’t have liked whatever she had to say to me either!
I’m going to remember that scam phone call forever even though I have no idea what scam she was pitching.
The call I didn’t want to get from the hospital came about 9 hours later…
No more land line
At the end of March, 2015 I moved, disconnected the land line, and haven’t had another installed.
The savings are more than $200/year by ditching the landline. The reality is I rarely got calls that were for me.
Mostly it was scammers, telemarketers, or collection agents looking for the deadbeat.
And on that last note – how many times can you tell someone “wrong number” before they stop calling?
The answer is I don’t know, because these scumbags keep calling even though they’ve been told multiple times “wrong number”. There was never any discussion about the relationship status or that he doesn’t live here. None of their business. “Wrong number,” I’d say and hang up without further discussion.
Not that I was trying to protect the deadbeat from scumbag collection agents. There was just zero interest on my part discussing him with anyone.
Can you believe that 4 days before I moved and disconnected the phone I got woken up by a scumbag collection agent from FDR whatever that stands for. I hadn’t been sleeping well since my father passed away and that was the one night I actually fell asleep, and didn’t wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning, unable to fall back asleep again. Until this scumbag woke me up at 7am and I was hopping mad! I cursed this jerk out, too, and here’s another one who rudely hangs up on me before I’m done swearing. I was so angry on that one that I phoned the number on the call display and berated the woman who answered the phone that I’d told them at least 4 times they’ve called the wrong number. Why do they keep calling? What part of “you’ve called the wrong number” is so hard to understand?
Dealing with scam phone calls
Whether it’s a scumbag collection agent or a scumbag phone call scammer – never give them any information. Hang up. Swear at them. Disconnect the phone. Do whatever you have to do to make your life less stressful.
It’s just super annoying that these phone scammers have gotten hold of cell phone numbers now. Luckily on cell phones it’s very easy to block a caller. Just do a Google search for your phone and you’ll find instructions.
1-800-124-0220 is blocked! 1-800-737-3321 is blocked!
I very rarely get scam phone calls on my cell. Mostly because I let the calls go to voicemail. And then I block them.
I used to keep a whistle at the back door to call in my dog who was going deaf in her old age. Sometimes I used it to blast out the ear drums of the scam phone caller. A few scumbag collection agents too!
How do you deal with scam phone calls?