Phone scams are fraudulent activities committed by scammers on residents of North Carolina. They are deceptive practices used to steal money and personal information using phone services. Phone scammers generally use live calls, spam calls, robocalls, and text messages to extort residents and often mask their identities on the phone. Phone lookup applications can help uncover the true identities of scam callers.
In North Carolina, phone scams are handled by the North Carolina Attorney General’s office (DOJ). The office takes the lead on unwanted telemarketing calls, mail fraud, tax fraud, and telemarketing scam awareness for North Carolina citizens. There are currently 19 prominent types of phone scams affecting North Carolinas. Those who believe phone scams have targeted them can file complaints with the DOJ.
A phone scam starts with convincing the call receiver that the person on the other end of the line is trustworthy.
Common phones scams in North Carolina include:
- Counterfeit checks from Lottery ticket scam: Here, residents receive a counterfeit check that appears to be from an international lottery. The fraudsters will then be asked to pay fees to cover taxes or insurance on the award.
- Nigerian Advance Fee Scam also called ‘419’: where fraudsters pose as Nigerian government officials or legitimate business persons requesting bank information and other sensitive financial data as part of a grand scheme to defraud their targets.
- Guaranteed Government Grants scam: Where the fraudsters request for bank information to deposit government grants, but instead of depositing grants, the scammer withdraws money from the target’s bank account. Another version of this scam lures residents into paying thousands of dollars for help in applying for grants.
- Charity scam: here, the scammer masquerades as a charity organization.
- Voice Phishing Scams: where fraudsters impersonate actual businesses in a bid to trick unsuspecting victims into divulging sensitive personal or financial information like passwords, credit card information, and social security numbers.
- Business or Investment scam: where the scammer presents bogus business or investment offers.
- Debt relief or credit repair scam: here, the scammer offers lower credit card interest rates or student loan forgiveness for a fee.
- Family Imposter scam: the scammer pretends to be a family member who is in danger and needs money urgently; this is usually targeted at the elderly.
- Prize scam, where the scammer offers a prize in exchange for registration or shipping fees.
- Free trial scam: here, the scammer offers a free service that is difficult to cancel after the monthly bills begin after the trial period.
- Loan scam: where the scammer targets people with low credit scores.
What are North Carolina IRS Scams?
In 2019, the North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR) advised taxpayers in the state to be aware of criminals fraudulently posing as tax agents to collect fake payments from residents. A scammer posing to be an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent calls a target to say they owe back taxes. The caller then threatens the target with an impending audit. Different tactics of this scam exist with callers claiming to be local law enforcement calling about outstanding warrants for owing the IRS. In either case, the scammer uses fear as a method for convincing the potential victim to reveal personal information or pay money. The NCDOR is aware of tax scams and advises residents to be wary of fraudsters impersonating its employees. Reverse phone number lookups can find the true identities of these callers.
North Carolina Tech Support Scams
In 2018, The North Carolina Department of Justice received more than 80 complaints about tech support scams. Tech support, also called repair scam, usually begins with the target getting notified that viruses were detected on their computer. The scammer then requests remote access to the target’s computer to remove the viruses. Scammers employ this scheme to steal personal and financial information stored on victim’s computers. In another variation of this scam, the scammer signs you up for long-term tech support services.
The North Carolina DOJ recommends exercising caution when being contacted by a computer or phone company in this way. They remind North Carolina residents that legitimate tech support and computer companies do not contact their customers for these matters.
Common tech support scam in North Carolina includes:
- Fraudsters calling and pretending to be from a known computer or software company and saying there’s an issue with your device.
- Pop-up windows or alerts appearing on your computer screen, warning that there’s a serious virus or other threat. Regardless of how trustworthy the alert looks, it's safe not to click on any links or call any listed phone numbers.
- Tech support services, asking for payment using a gift card.
It is safer to contact the company directly for any computer problems. Residents may file a complaint with the DOJ if they fall victim to a tech support scam.
North Carolina Voice Phishing Scams.
Scammers employ voice phishing to trick victims into revealing sensitive information such as social security numbers, passwords, and bank account details. Voice phishing relies on the call receiver trusting the scammer enough to reveal information about themselves. They typically claim to represent a bank or any company and that they need the information requested to secure the recipient’s account. The DOJ advises North Carolinas never to give their personal information over the phone, especially during unsolicited calls.
DOJ also advise residents to report phishing to the real business or organization that the scammer impersonates. Residents may also forward such fraudulent emails to the Federal Trade Commission at email@example.com.
What are North Carolina Emergency Scams?
Also known as “Grandparent Scams,” these scams are primarily targeted at the elderly North Carolinas. Scammers employing this tactic claim to be family members or friends in need of money urgently. They use caller ID spoofing to appear as someone their targets know. An emergency scammer may even disguise their voice or claim to sound different due to emotional stress or injury.
When suspicious of a caller claiming to be a loved one, make sure to stay calm and ask questions. If left unconvinced, reach out to the loved one by calling the number you already have or ask a shared acquaintance to corroborate their claims. Contact your local law enforcement agency immediately if you discover a scammer has contacted you.
How Do I Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Phone Scam?
- Be aware that anyone who demands an upfront fee inorder to award prize is trying to scam you.
- Be aware that anyone can be a victim of a phone scam. There is a possibility that any unknown or unsolicited call from a vaguely familiar or unfamiliar number may be from a scammer. Be cautious when dealing with unknown numbers or completely ignore them.
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Although the registry can not prevent scam calls, they can reduce the number of unsolicited calls received by the recipient, and put the recipient on high alert when an unknown number claims to be from a known telemarketer who is restrained from calling the recipient.
- Terminate robocalls immediately after realizing what they are.
- Do some research on unfamiliar contacts, investment opportunities, new business associates, charities, opportunities. service providers or deals.
- Keep personal information secure including passwords and PINs. Legitimate organizations, such as banks and government agencies, will never ask you to disclose sensitive information over the phone.
- Ask questions calmly and do not let unknown callers rush you to a quick decision.
- Avoid using free unprotected Wi-Fi in public places. Personal information is susceptible to theft on shared public networks.
- Be wary of callers with numbers bearing international area codes and unknown local area codes.
- Report fraud or suspicion of fraud and identity theft to the FTC. Stay informed on scam and fraud trends. Obtain updates from organizations such as the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).