Fraudulent Phone Calls

Phone calls from scammers can be alarming, even frightening. Arm yourself with the tools you need to recognize and stop fraud!

Fraudulent Phone Calls

Never trust unsolicited phone calls asking for information. Caller ID can be easily spoofed, so always hang up and call back using the number listed on the legitimate business website.

Tips for avoiding becoming a victim of fraud

  • How do these scammers choose you to contact? It can happen to anyone and be totally random. They also use marketing databases, telephone listings, and information from social networking sites, obituaries and other sources. Sometimes, email accounts are compromised and used to send messages entire address books.
  • How do these scammers know the names of your friends or relatives? In some cases they don’t. For instance, the scammer may say “Hi grandma,” hoping that you actually have a grandson. If you ask, “David, is that you?” the scammer will say “Yes!” Often these crooks will call in the middle of the night and take advantage of the fact that you may not be awake enough to ask more questions and you may not want to disturb other people by calling them to confirm the information. Sometimes the scammers do know the names of your friends or relatives. They can get that information from a variety of sources. Your relatives may be mentioned in an obituary or on a social networking site. Your email contact list may contain the names of friends and relatives.
  • What do these scammers usually say? They might say something like, “I’m in Canada and I’m trying to get home but my car broke down and I need money right away to get it fixed.” Or they may claim to have been mugged, or involved in a car accident, or need money for bail or to pay customs fees to get back into the United States from another country. They may also pose as an attorney or law enforcement official contacting you on behalf of a friend or relative. No matter the story, they always want you to send money immediately.
  • If you realize you’ve been scammed, what can you do? These scammers ask you to send money through services such as Western Union and MoneyGram because they can pick it up quickly, in cash. They often use phony IDs, so it’s impossible to trace them. Contact the money transfer service immediately to report the scam. If the money hasn’t been picked up yet, you can retrieve it, but if it has, it’s not like a check that you can stop – the money is gone.
  • How can you protect your email account from being used by scammers? Use a firewall and avoid using untrusted public Wi-Fi. Install modern anti‐malware protection. Keep your operating system and other software updated. Avoid opening attachments and clicking links in email messages, instead use secure email and trusted file sharing platforms that require authentication,. Leverage search engines to locate legitimate websites and avoid impostor websites hosting malware and used for credential theft.
  • What else can you do to protect yourself? If you get a call or email from someone claiming to know you and asking for help, check to confirm that it’s legitimate before you send any money. Ask some questions that would be hard for an imposter to answer correctly – the name of the person’s pet, for example, or the date of their mother’s birthday. Contact the person who they claim to be directly. If you can’t reach the person, contact someone else – a friend or relative of the person. Don’t send money unless you’re certain the request is legitimate!

Debit Card Scam

Please be aware of any suspicious phone calls claiming to be from "Santa Barbara Bank' notifying you of a fraud warning on your debit card. Customers have reported receiving a prerecorded message stating, "This is a call from Santa Barbara Bank reporting suspicious activity on your master card, to unlock the credit card please press 1.' Do not follow these instructions or return the call.

Please contact us at 805-965-5942 with any suspicious calls.

IRS Scam

(from www.irs.gov)

An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.

Note that the IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill;
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card;
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone;
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

Obamacare Scam

(from www.fraud.com)

Obamacare scams come in a variety of forms. Consumers have complained about con artists contacting them by phone, fax, email and even in person. A common version of the scam involve fraudsters claiming to be from the federal government and directing consumers to purchase insurance cards in order to be eligible for coverage under the ACA. Scammers intimidate consumers to give them their bank account routing numbers or make a direct cash transfer by using words like “it is the law” or “the government now requires it.” Scammers have threatened consumers with jail time if they don’t purchase the fake insurance cards. Another variation of the scam begins with fraudsters claiming to be “navigators" or Medicare officials, tricking consumers into divulging personal information and paying for fictitious insurance plans.

Consumers can better protect themselves from Obamacare scams by following some suggested preventive measures:

  • If someone claiming to be with Obamacare or another federal program asks you to wire money, give out your bank account number or load funds onto a prepaid card, it’s a scam.
  • If you received an unsolicited phone call, email or fax claiming that you need to purchase a new Medicare card or update your personal information (such as your Social Security number, date of birth or other sensitive information) because “it’s the law,” it's a scam.
  • Be careful of phishing sites made to look like official insurance exchange Web sites. They may contain the actual seal of the real insurance exchanges, but likely simply exist to load malware onto your computer or collect your personal information.
  • In the event that you inadvertently divulge personal information to an Obamacare fraudster, inform your banks, credit card providers and the three major credit bureaus so that they can be on the lookout for potential identity thieves.

Grandparents Scam

(from www.consumerfed.org)

You get a call or an email unexpectedly from someone who claims to be a friend or relative. This often happens to grandparents with the caller claiming to be their grandson or granddaughter. The caller says there’s an emergency and asks you to send money immediately. But beware, there’s a good chance this is an imposter trying to steal your money!