KENTLAND, Ind. — With many people receiving money back from taxes and the third stimulus payment, scammers are in full force especially via the phone.
Statistics show that phone scams are on the rise. Americans lost nearly $19.7 billion from phone scams in 2020 — more than double the amount lost in 2019 (Source: Truecaller). An estimated 56 million US residents lost money from a phone scam in 2020. This is an increase of 30 percent from the previous year.
The advances in technology have made scamming easier via the phone, and the money made is quite lucrative.
Shannon Cothran, Captain of the Newton County Sheriff’s Department, was able to speak with a couple of scammers recently and what he found out may shock a lot of people.
“It took a couple of attempts but one scammer opened up to me because I told him that I was thinking about getting into the scamming business,” said Cothran. “I have no way to clarify some of his claims, but he told me that he lost his ‘normal’ job and his family was suffering. He started working the scams and they bring in about $20,000 a day. That amount is split between the people working the scam and each person is making about $4,000 a day. He explained how they work different angles at different times of the year and the money is non-stop. If I was interested in joining them, I had to move to New York where they live. But the phone calls that we receive from them show Hammond, IN as the location. Generally, these calls are from overseas but not this one.”
This is called call spoofing. Call spoofing is when the caller deliberately sends false information to change the caller ID. Customers pay for a pin code to use when calling their provider, allowing them to select both the destination number they want to call, as well as the number they want to appear on the recipient’s caller ID. In 2017, almost none of the scam calls in the US were using neighborhood spoofing. However, according to First Orion, by the end of 2019, over 80 percent of all scam calls in the US were using area codes local to the recipient.
The scammer Cothran talked to was using the “power company” scam, calling people saying they were NIPSCO and they were about to shut off the victim’s power.
Another scam that has been hitting the area recently is the “jail scam.” In this scam, an automated call states there is an incoming message from an inmate of the Newton County Jail. If you accept the message, they will try to get bail money saying that a loved one is in custody.
“We have to do better as a community to make people aware of these activities,” said Cothran. “These are our parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors that are getting their hard-earned money taken from them. The elderly may not report they have been scammed because they don’t want their family members to think they can no longer handle their finances. Perhaps they don’t even know they were scammed but don’t want the family to know they didn’t pay their electric bill and were almost disconnected. When, in fact, the whole thing was a scam. It is time we take awareness and protection of our residents as seriously as the scammers focus on taking money from them.”
Cothran suggests that if you feel it is a scam to simply hang up. If any information is given out, that’s when the victim should contact their financial institution and also monitor their credit report and financial activity.
“Always err on the side of caution,” added Cothran. “If you have questions about owing someone money, call that agency or organization directly. If you think you were scammed, don’t be afraid to talk about it.”