The 876 scam is back.

thWhen the phone rang yesterday and caller ID noted an “876” area code, a warning bell dimly clanged in my head. Some kind of scam, I think. As I started to say so, DF answered the phone.

“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.

If you have older family members, make sure they know about these sorts of calls. The FTC has some helpful info on recognizing lottery scams and prize scams; share it with your elders.

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?

Related reading:

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  1. I think the phone companies should give free Caller ID to those customers 65 years and above. It could save a lot of heartache.

  2. Linda

    My 91 year old father received the IRS scam call twice in one day. He told them he didn’t owe them any money. I talked about the grandchild scam to him and he said he only says more than no to numbers he recognizes on the caller ID. He couldn’t wire money to anybody because he no longer drives. He is so frugal that he wouldn’t send money to anybody!

    He doesn’t have an answering machine and gets confused on the phone. I do hope that he would have the sense not to get involved in one of these scams.

    • Donna Freedman

      DF’s father got one of those calls, except that this time the caller pretended to be DF. His father immediately knew that this wasn’t his son’s voice, but he decided to mess with the crook’s head: “Prove you’re my son by telling me where you grew up.”
      The crook paused. “Uh….Denver?”
      Those thieves should be ashamed of themselves, but I expect they aren’t.

  3. Catseye

    I love the way that DF handled that call! I’ll have to remember that if it ever happens to me.

  4. $300 Million? Wow, that’s a ton of money. I can totally see how Google Earth and other technology can be used against the elderly. I know my grandparents know very little about the internet and haven’t every really used it. Such low-lives to take advantage of the elderly.

    • Donna Freedman

      Those threats…I can’t imagine how frightening it would be to hear them from someone whom you think is nearby. Awful.

  5. Suzie

    A friend’s mother once received an obscene phone call. She pretended to be hard of hearing and kept saying, “What? Speak up. I can’t hear you,” until the guy was shouting. He finally gave up and hung up. He never called back either! I had forgotten about that story until reading this post. I will have to try and remember that if I ever accidentally pick up one of those calls. We usually ignore our landline (let it go to the machine). Everybody uses cell phones these days anyway, usually to text.

  6. Robert Wynne

    save the number, type and type it in on your URL. You’ll learn right away whether it’s a scam or not.


  1. Just a little link love: Hey Linda edition | A Gai Shan Life - […] scams to avoid: the 876 (imposter Publishers’ Clearing or other businesses) scam, the E-Z pass scam by […]

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