HOUSTON - There have been so many people targeted, the Texas Attorney General’s Office now has an alert. Criminals are calling on the phone pretending to be from the state, attempting to swindle unsuspecting victims. How can you avoid being tricked by these thieves?
Well, often when there’s a fraud alert, it’s for the elderly or those who may be easily swayed but these phone scammers are apparently so convincing, this warning is for all of Houston. Although most people believe they could never become a phone scam victim.
"I’m cheap. I just don’t fall for it,” says one Houston woman.
"As soon as I pick up the phone, I know what it is. You can’t play me,” laughs Ken Rawlings.
However, this warning from the Texas Attorney General’s Office says in this latest scam these thieves are persuasive. They are calling, pretending to be from the Crime Victim Services Unit of the Attorney General’s Office. They are providing a fake case number, telling Texans their social security number was compromised and asking for confirmation of certain personal and banking information to get things cleared up.
”A lot of times they use scare tactics to make you think your security is at risk,” says Houstonian Marcie Mendoza.
”I’ve gotten phone calls saying my social security payment has been compromised,” says Ryan Marquez, but he doesn’t receive social security.
In fact, Marquez is a University of Houston School of Law Professor who teaches all about fraud protection. Here’s what he says you shouldn’t do.
"The rule should be if they’re calling you, you should not provide sensitive information," Marquez says.
Some Houstonians had to learn about phone scams the hard way after being duped out of hard-earned cash.
"It still hurts but it was about $850. I’m still paying for it,” says John Roberson.
”I lost about $150. That’s a lot. I tried to report it to the police and they couldn’t do anything so I lost,” says Salvi Carreras.
So how do you protect yourself? "For the most part the phone has a little scam indicator,” explains Houstonian Orlando Hernandez.
Oddly enough while interviewing him I received a call from “Spam Risk.” So clearly you know not to answer that call and this is an option.
”I just block it and that kind of reduces future spam calls,” says Houstonian Roshni Krishnasing.
”But it won’t block all of them so you have to be aware some will still come through,” adds Marquez.
Most importantly Marquez says if someone calls you asking for personal info, “Request their name and information, title, department they're with. Then you should do your own research. Independently find the phone number through the internet and then give that agency a call and ask to speak to that person.”
If we’re all on the lookout for scammers and we all believe we’re too smart to fall for it, why do criminals even bother? Well, the Federal Trade Commission says Americans were scammed out of $1.48 billion last year alone.