“Hello…Pretty busy, actually, what’s up? Oh, really? Well, send it to me.” He ended the call – and along with it, our chance to win $8.1 million dollars in a foreign lottery.
Yep, the 876 scam is back. Previous scammers have claimed to be associated with Publishers Clearinghouse, UPS, loan originators or credit repair agencies.
The crooks explain that once they’ve received a wire transfer or prepaid card to cover “taxes and fees,” their prizes will be sent along.
Of course that sounds ludicrous. But people fall for it all the time – especially the elderly.
These scammers sometimes call back and ask for additional monies, threatening physical harm to the victims or their victims’ families. An article from USA Today details just how low these vultures can sink:
“Some elderly victims have been told that their family members would be killed or their grandchildren would be raped if they did not send more money.
“Other times, the victims are told that their houses would be burned down if they did not make further payments. Using Google Earth, the scammers, who may be thousands of miles away from their victims, provide details when speaking to their victims that make it appear that the scammers are nearby.”
Appalling. But the rewards are great: It’s estimated that Americans are bilked to the tune of more than $300 million each year.
That USA Today article notes some older people have lost their life savings, and that one woman committed suicide after being defrauded out of $248,000.
What can you do?
Your first and best defense is caller ID. When you see “876,” just let it ring. Keep in mind that some scammers use a technique called “spoofing” to make the phone call appear to be originating from within the United States.
If that’s the case or if you forget about 876, here’s how to deal with the result:
- As soon as you hear “you’ve won the Mega Millions/a car/whatever,” hang up.
- Should the scammer call back, state that you know this is a phony call and that you are notifying the Federal Trade Commission. Hang up again.
- Then do report the call, at ftc.gov/complaint or at 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Recognize, however, that this is like a scammy version of Whac-A-Mole: You smack them down in one spot and they pop up in two or three others. In fact, USA Today reports that many of these calls are made from disposable cell phones and are virtually impossible to trace.
Personally, I’d suggest that older friends and relatives do what my dad does: Let all calls go to the answering machine. The folks who know him are aware that he screens his calls and will just start talking to the machine; if Dad is home, he picks up. Scammers and those raising funds for charities will generally hang up – and if they don’t, it’s obvious what they’re doing so he can choose to ignore the call.
Readers: Have you “won” anything lately?