First, if you think you are being scammed STOP! Sever all communications with your attacker. Unplug that phone, do not give money to anyone. Know that their threats are fake. Nobody deserves to be treated this way.
You can file a local police report if you want, but that is only for you to feel better. The local police are worthless in regards to scammers that are doing this over state lines or worse, country borders.
So, how do you know you are being scammed? Here are some red flags and facts you should know about:
1. Microsoft has wonderful tech support that is a pleasure to talk to. Believe it or not. As much as we bash Windows or Office, their tech support sets the standard for tech support. (Comcast should takes notes from them. Ahem..) Microsoft is not monitoring the internet for computers with viruses and they are not cold calling people that may be infected. Microsoft Windows is on so many computers in the world that it is completely impractical for them to be calling you. Additionally, their customer support reps speak perfect Seattle English, just like what you hear form USA news reporters. People with thick and broken Indian accents would not be put in a voice sales role if they had one. Lastly, Microsoft makes it's consumer sales through the vendors that purchase licenses for new PC buys and a tiny portion of their sales is individual licenses. The bulk of their profit is volume licensing for businesses and now cloud services like Azure (which is being presented as the gold standard to already Microsoft product heavy businesses and is expensive as heck.) Hang up, consider changing your phone number. To prove how full of crap they are, my father in law receives they calls now and then. Oh yeah, his Microsoft windows is full of viruses and he is infecting the internet and for a small fee I can rid your computer of them. So they say. How do I know they are full of crap? He is running Debian 8 (Linux). There is no Windows OS installed on his PC.
2. NEVER EVER EVER EVER NEVER EVER use Walmart to Walmart money transfer or Western Union to send money to anyone that is not family or a close friend. And that is even sketchy. Scammers love that Walmart to Walmart because you don't have to put a destination. They can show up to any Walmart, anywhere and collect the money and be long gone before anyone can do anything about it. Some scammers even hire homeless people to collect the money and allow them to keep a small fee for doing so in case there are cuffs waiting for them when they do. These guys are making millions of dollars from people not because they are idiots, because they certainly are not in most cases. If the service you are inquiring about doesn't take credit card, I would think twice about this.
3. If a contract is involved, scrub it. No, silly. Not with soap and water. With your eyes. Are there misspellings, grammar issues, or crappy signatures? Is there already a signature on it? That is a red flag itself. A proper form will have empty signature blocks for signing before a witness. The form I have in front of me here has a signature that looks like it was cut out from another form physically with a pair of scissors and taped on this form and copied. His name is Jarod, his back account is registered to Jarrod. This scammer had a thick Indian accent (I am seeing a trend here...) and his phone was not from the area we were inquiring about. It was from MA and the VOIP block was registered through a company in Nova Scotia. Well, that is sketchy as hell. In this case, what happened was my wife and I are looking at a vacation home to stay for a week in Savannah, GA. The scam is this guy collected photos of houses from a real estate site from when this beautiful property was being sold and created a VBRO account and is offering reservations as a vacation home for the low price of $1250 (half of the total rental cost for one week.) He demands the payment via Walmart to Walmart transfer, then offers a 4 digit pin for the automatic locks and garage code on the house immediately. [[ RED FLAG -- Why would he give us immediate access in March for a reservation in July? ]] Once he gets the money, he drops the phone number in his VOIP plan, changes his alias, and creates a different property. Meanwhile, we would think that we had a legitimate reservation. We show up and ring the doorbell to find out, we were sent to some random people's home expecting it to be empty and ready for us, and they have no idea why 20 people are standing on their door step. Now, scammer boy is Scott free with $1250, we are out $1250 and are not out of town looking for a last minute hotel that can handle 20 people. This happens all the time. These guys get away with it. They need to be stopped. We caught onto this asshat fast and shut him down. We were out no money thanks to my wife noticing some red flags and coming to me for help. That is a major WIN on her part and I am proud.
4. Let's talk about the IRS and bill collectors. It is 2017 right now as I write this. There is no reason for any organization to be using a toll free number anymore. Long distance is a thing of the past. I block all toll free numbers. I block all numbers that do not have caller ID. This is not new technology. If you don't have caller ID you either have super old tech in which, I don't trust you with my money, or, you are suppressing your caller ID and hiding. Yeah, now I super don't trust you. Chase-Manhattan Mortgage Corporation was notorious for spoofing their caller ID and you would get calls from 000-000-0000. I quickly fired them as a mortgage company and I fired Chase Bank as my bank as well. If you don't trust me to know who you are when you call me, I don't trust you with my money. Collectors can be NASTY. Hang up. If your debt is already at the collector, your credit is already dinged. Dealing with their bantering, badgering, bickering, and all out nastiness will only raise your blood pressure. Do NOT authorize payments over the phone. Hang up, block the call. Change you number if you must. Once a debt is at the collection level, secure money orders need to be the only way you pay them. Some of these collection companies are the same people that cash checks and issue title loans for 385% APR. Don't get me wrong, there are some legit collection companies out there that are actually pleasant to talk to on the phone. If you work for one of those companies, sorry.. all these 4 man shop, fly by night, phone bullies are giving you a bad name. The IRS will send you a notification that you have back taxes through the mail. If you receive a call from someone with a thick (you guessed it) Indian accent saying you owe back taxes and they want an immediate payment over the phone, verify with them. Ask them the amount of your last tax return. If they refuse to answer or can't answer, hang up. Change your number.
5. Nobody in Jamaica or Nigeria is worth talking to if you don't already know them. Ouch!!! What a prejudice and harsh thing to say. Visit those countries. Don't carry cash. Don't use your credit card. You don't have a distant relative that you have never heard of that somehow knows you and willed you billions of dollars. A transaction like that would be handled with trustees and lawyers and you would get a court hearing summons to have the will read to you officially. Email or sketchy phone call is NOT the method of contact for something like this. Too good to be true loans are just that. Too good to be true. $25,000 loan right now, no credit check. Bull, shit. You will fill out a sketchy form, fax it (nooooooooo ... FAX IS UNSECURE COMMUNICATIONS! NO FAX! NO FAX! ), then they will want 1% of the loan amount up front before they send you the check for $25,000. So, if you cough up the $2,500 to send them, they will send you a check for $500 as a bonus payment which clears the bank. Then, they will tell you that you are cleared for the $1,000,000 grant if you pay 5 installments of $750 and they will refund the faith money as soon as it clears. If you pay those, they will send you a $5000 check. That check will bounce and the scammer group dissolves and reforms for their next victim. Your information is sold to a ring of scammer groups as an active source with a 6 month cool down period. Yeah, in half a year, they are going to try a different scam on you. Jamaica area code is 876. Block the whole damn thing. If you don't have family there, there is no reason to ever talk to anyone in Jamaica.
This is just a couple scams. There are hundreds of different schemes to swindle you out of your money. The best we can do is protect ourselves and report these scammers on https://www.ic3.gov . This is an FBI run program and don't expect any feed back from them once you submit a claim. If you call the FBI or visit the FBI office they will all direct you to this site.
What are the scammers preying on? It is simple and you have heard your grandfather say it. My word is my bond. We need to start cringing when we hear that idea. It is assumed that my word is my bond, then your word must also be your bond. Elderly people expect people to be honest with them and are a bit out of touch with current society. There once was a day when you could pick up the help wanted sign in the window and hand it to the shop owner and tell him "I am an honest and hard worker. When can I start?" and expect you have a job. That ship sailed and sunk. Now, we have to prove you are not a junkie that is just going to steal from the register to support your habit. We have to check some references and ensure we are not hiring someone that is going to do damage to my business with you foul attitude or scumbag ways. If you got fired from your last job for stealing, you probably shouldn't be working at the bank. My point is that people are liars until proven truthful in the younger generation's eyes and truthful until proven liars in the elderly generation's eyes and that is being taken advantage of by scammers.
Here is what we need. We need telecom white listing as a feature. What that means is that we have a list of numbers we allow to ring through and all others will ring once for us and give us the option to trust or not trust. And we need the ability to kill a trust immediately. Where this is not effecting is spoofing. One technique that scammers are starting to use is spoofing a local area code so the number looks to be coming from a local number. What this means is that if your phone number is 815-555-5555 then They will assume the 815 area code and you will see a call from 815-670-1234 which looks a local number. Heck it could be Betty from church and when you pick it up, nope, it is Microsoft telling you that your computer has a virus. HA. We need to be able to verify the integrity of the caller ID. If these features don't arrive then it is time to get rid of the phone and move into digital means of communications as a community.