Scammer calls. Does anyone actually fall for them?

Auto warranty, Social Security Admin, Nigerian prince, Amazon. Etc, etc…

Most of us have gotten these scam calls. They’ve become a punchline in everyday life and the media.

Yet every single day zillions of these calls go out. Is there any data about how many unenlightened people actually fall victim to this horseshit? At lease in the U.S.? Somebody must be, right? Or the calls would be pointless and stop. Right?

Someone must or they would stop. If one in a hundred does and they scam, say $1000 from them, it would pay. That’s why I sometimes keep them on the line; it lowers their payoff/call.

Are you including on-line scamming or just phone calls?

We had a thread here several years ago – you may remember it – in which one poster blogged the daily blow-by-blow as she watched a neighbor getting sucked into a fake on-line long-distance romance. In her words, “they are plucking him like a chicken”.

ETA: Here it is, from December 2008:

My brother is mentally challenged. Like most people, he has a cell phone. One day I overheard him giving his name and address to someone over the phone. I stopped him before he could give any more identifying information. Obviously he’s an easy target.

Some people are greedy, desperate for love, fearful, etc. This might explain why people fall for investment scams, romance scams, the prisoner scam, and the like. Critical thinking skills across the population are weak.

There is data but, due to embarrassment, it is underreported. Furthermore it’s basically impossible to get the money back if the scammer is smart enough.

The scam victim in this case lost $200,000 in a Bitcoin scam. Yes, he was greedy. Very few investments give you a 50% increase in about six weeks. I read about that on another forum and, of course, people were in disbelief how he could be so gullible. He founded an organization called “Justice For the Scammed” but I doubt it will get support because people doubt it will happen to them.

Tong Zuo is a Canadian who lost his life savings in the QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exit scam/Ponzi scheme. That sucks. He has posted the occasional Youtube video on what his life has been like since. He lost money gambling on sports and the 2020 election after losing his life savings!. Obviously he’s been working and making some money, so you would think he would want to hold onto iT! Please Mr. Zuo, use the Couch Potato investment strategy! Zuo is a computer programmer, so presumably he is highly educated and has at least average intelligence, but intelligence is not the same thing as critical thinking.

A dear family friend lost her husband a couple years ago. The widow is in her mid-80’s.

My family got virtually none of the details, but she fell prey to a phone scam, and gave up some sort of gift card(s) that totaled between $1,000 and $1,500.

My understanding is that the elderly are their best hunting grounds.

I always wonder what kind of leverage the US might have that would convince India (not implying they’re all based there, but a lot of them are) to get really aggressive in futting these shuckers down.

I’ve known this particular ‘victim’ my whole life. It hurts just a bit.

But it hurts just a bit knowing they get people who are total strangers to me, too – particularly those on fixed incomes who are more generous, trusting, and kind-hearted than … maybe slipping a bit.

Here is one case in my area from a few days ago:

I saw an interview with the victim on the news. He seemed a like bright, well-informed man; the last person you’d expect to fall for such a scam. Yet, he did, to the tune of $4,500 ( in prepaid cards, to remove a nonexistent warrant) to a scammer who did everything except wave an actual red flag.

Almost everyone who is a victim of these crimes would have told you beforehand that they could never be fooled.

You mean these red flags that should have been obvious right from the start?

The Frederick County Sheriff’s office tells Seven on Your Side officers serve warrants in person, and they do not call about them. They also do not ask for money to handle a warrant or anything else over the phone.

Where do they get the idea this is normal?

If not at the very start, at least at the point where they asked to be paid in My Vanilla prepaid cards, it should have been obvious that it wasn’t on the up and up.

My wife fielded one the other day. The scammer claimed to be from Amazon administration, investigating a fraudulent purchase on our account. She let him get a few steps in, while she opened up our account on her laptop. No such purchase showed up. Red flags were bristling already. She asked him what was purchased and for how much. He said it was an iPad for $399.95. That’s when she hung up. An iPad, that cheap? No way!

The next part was really strange. Do you know how hard it is to find someone at Amazon to tell about scams? They don’t seem to be interested.

Since the scammers are based overseas and use spoofed phone numbers, there’s little, if anything, Amazon can do about it.

The iPad 10 appears to be $329 on their website right now.

As for the Amazon scam, Mark Rober walked us through how they do them. Some of them can get pretty clever and would likely get past a lot of people that don’t just hang up on these kind of calls ‘just in case it’s real’.

Starts around the 6:50 mark if this doesn’t queue up properly.

I just got a text today with the following message:

“Your stimulus check has been returned three times. Please contact us and fill up this form to receive your payment: < bitly url >”

I was almost tempted to see what’s behind the link and “fill up this form” for a larf, but fuck 'em if I’m going to give them the satisfaction of a single click.

Amazon has nothing to do with the scams other than their name being used in them. It’s not that these are Amazon employees or that your Amazon account is being accessed. They’re just using the Amazon name on the assumption that you’ve likely ordered something from them (or have at least heard of them). It’s no different a scammer claiming to be from Bank Of America or Spectrum Cable.

A favorite phrasing of a scammer. Plus the concept of needing to fill out a form for any transaction.

I work in retail, ,((Lowes), just the day before yesterday I stopped a woman from buying $3000 worth of gift cards. We are trained to spot potential scams, so I did a little probing as I rang her up:

Her: "I’'d like to buy these gift cards, I have a lot of cousins getting married. (Hands me 6 gift cards, wants the maximum $500 on each)

Me: (suspicion aroused). “Sure, but because of the amount of the transaction. I need to ask you a few questions and advised you of potential fraud”

Her: " Oh, I know about all that but OK"

Me: “Did someone call you and tell you to buy these because you or someone you know was in trouble”

Her: “No”

Me:" Did someone tell you to buy them but told you to say they were for a wedding?"

Her: “No.” (Less convincing)

At this point, I’m ready to tender the sale, which would debit her card and activate the gift cards.

Me: “One last question. Has someone called you and told you to read off the numbers to them after purchase?”

Her: (no answer)

I look up and she has gone all-white, with a terrified look on her face. She pointed to her phone in her hand and whispered “they’re on the phone right now.!”

She started crying, I cancelled the sale immediately and went around the counter to her and told her to hang up the phone. She started sobbing uncontrollably, saying they told her that her identity had been stolen, that someone was selling drugs in New Mexico under her name, that they were from the government and were there to help, etc. I took her in the back so she wouldn’t be as embarrased. The scammers called back several times while I was talking to her, I told her to ignore them. She was completely beside herself. She said the new things about her family, that she just bought a house, etc. She admitted that she had already been to another store and bought $ 1000 worth of cards and provided the numbers to the scammers. I told her unfortunately that money was long gone,( she can try to contact the retailer who sold the cards, but typically they are only returnable if they haven’t been redeemed, and the scammers invariably redeem the cards immediately) but at least she didnt get scammed for an additional $3000. It took almost a half hour to get her calmed down, her husband finally came and picked her up.

The woman was in her late 29"s, early 30’s, seemed reasonably intelligent. But these assholes call up, spout off some scary sounding threats to freak you out, then you’re no longer thinking straight. Why would the government want you to pay them in gift cards? Yet some people believe it in their panic.

Similar episode a couple of months ago. This time, an older woman (Late 50’s), buying $3500 worth of Sephora gift cards. I had also gone through the same questions and advice, she assured me she knew all about how scammers work and they really were for a wedding. But in this case she did pay for the cards and left. She returned 5 minutes later, saying they were on the phone with her asking for the numbers (she didnt give them). Again, the scammers were STILL ON THE PHONE! I told her to hang up on them. I kind of sighed and told her I tried to advise you, you assured me they were for a wedding. She said “that’s what they told me to tell you so you wouldn’t be suspicious!” . Since her cards hadn’t been redeemed I think she was able to get her money back, not sure because that goes through corporate. But it just goes to show that even when you actively TRY to stop someone from falling prey to a scam, it’s not always enough to overcome whatever fear got put into them. In her case, the scammers told her that her identity had been stolen, and the best thing to do would be to EMPTY her bank account as quickly as possible, hey, put it onto some gift cards that the hackers cant access, then once we get you all buttoned down we can return the money. This scammer pretended to be from her bank, IIRC.

So I personally have saved customers $6500 this year alone. Personally, I think all retailers should be trained on these potential scams, they are in the best position to help because the people being scammed are not thinking straight. It’s no skin off the retailers nose if a customer gets scammed, they are getting paid, but it’s just the right thing to do. Most of the gift card scams could be eliminated if the people selling the cards just asked a couple questions.

This is one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve listened to in the last year. The writer actually went to India and tracked the guy down and confronted him…twice.

I was at a small reunion of friends a couple years ago and while I was there, one of my friends fielded a panicked call from her adult daughter (I think in her 30’s but a failure-to-launch child who lived with her mom), who had received a scary phone call from a scammer and who had already given him her credit card number. My friend got the card cancelled and the police notified (like they could do anything) and I think the damage was fairly slight.

The New York Times has an article today that says, “the Better Business Bureau’s survey research has shown that younger adults lose money to swindlers much more often than the older people you may think of as the stereotypical victims. The Federal Trade Commission reports similar figures, with 44 percent of people ages 20 to 29 losing money to fraud, more than double the 20 percent of people ages 70 to 79.”

It’s the panic that gets them. The scammers will often tell them there’s some type of deadline. For example, due to [whatever they’re being told] the police are going to arrest them in 2 hours, however, we told them if they could give us a little bit of time we can get it all straightened out. Now this person is not only panicked, but under the impression they’ll be going to jail soon. Even if they’re unsure, I think they assume they can sort it all out later. But that’s not the case with the gift cards, the money is gone.

If this is common in your area, @turtlescanfly, I almost wonder if you need to write “are they still on the phone” on some paper (or have it on the back of your name tag) so they can nod to you. At least then you know what you’re dealing with.

@turtlescanfly, thank you for sharing those details of the scam, and the courageous action you have taken to bust it! It was interesting to read how it all goes down. Will keep this in mind with my elderly in-laws.