What are Massachusetts Phone Scams?
Massachusetts phone scams are deceptive attempts by individuals or organizations to obtain something of value from Massachusetts residents. Scam attempts are made using live calls, automated calls, and text messages, and they aim to extort money or steal sensitive information from victims. Scammers also impersonate legitimate organizations and government agencies to get residents to divulge their personal information and pay up. Phone number lookups can retrieve information on the registrants of phone numbers used for scam calls.
The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) provides tips and guidelines to help residents spot and avoid phone scams. Residents who have been targeted by phone scams can file reports on phone scam with their local police departments, the Attorney-General’s Office, OCABR, and FTC.
Some common scams in Massachusetts include:
- Grandparent scams, wherein scammers extort money from their victims by pretending to be relatives (typically grandchildren) in emergencies.
- Charity Scams, wherein the scammers extort money by impersonating charitable organizations that are soliciting donations.
- Lottery Scams, wherein scammers extort money by impersonating lotteries and informing the victims of fictitious winnings that require upfront payments to obtain.
- IRS Scams, wherein scammers extort money or steal sensitive information by posing as employees of the IRS.
- Law Enforcement Impersonation Scams, wherein scammers extort money and steal sensitive information by impersonating law enforcement agents, such as Sheriff deputies and police officers.
- Utility Scams, wherein scammers steal money and personal information by pretending to be employees of their victims’ utility companies.
What are Massachusetts Utility Scams?
Fraudsters contact residents, posing as representatives of their utility service providers and seeking to collect back payments. These callers claim you have outstanding bills that you must settle immediately or have your services disconnected. In some instances, the callers spoof caller ID to display the caller information of utility companies. They may also get hostile and threaten lawsuits, fines, arrests, and prosecutions to intimidate their targets. Such callers always insist on payments via insecure channels such as prepaid cards, wire transfers, or ask for the victim’s banking information.
Residents are advised to ignore and report such calls. Massachusetts and federal laws restrict utility companies from arbitrarily disconnecting their services, even for defaulting customers. The utility company must send the customer past-due notices and disconnection notices by mail before they can proceed to disconnect consumer services. Utility companies will never insist on such insecure payment channels or proactively request a customer’s financial information. If you receive these calls and have any doubts, hang up and contact your utility company directly and make inquiries. A reverse phone lookup can retrieve information that indicates a phone number has been spoofed on caller ID. Residents can file complaints on utility scams with the Attorney-General’s Office on (617) 727-8400 or file online complaints with the Department of Telecommunications and Cable.
What are Massachusetts Lottery Scams?
Lottery scams are scams wherein the victims received calls from persons claiming to represent lottery companies, informing them of lottery wins. However, victims have to pay processing fees and taxes upfront to receive the winnings. The lottery companies request banking details to collect the payments or ask for the fees via wire transfers and prepaid cards. Sometimes the scammers claim to represent foreign lotteries, and reverse phone lookup searches can verify such claims’ authenticity. The callers pull out all the stops to convince their targets of their legitimacy.
The Massachusetts State Lottery warns residents about these lottery scams. You cannot win a lottery that you did not buy a ticket for, and the lottery company will not personally notify you about winnings. Lottery winning ticket numbers are broadcast, and winners come forward to claim their winnings with their tickets. Also, it is illegal for U.S. residents to participate in foreign lotteries. Lottery ticket holders can verify the authenticity of their winnings with the Massachusetts State Lottery if they receive such phone calls. Victims of these scams can file reports with the OCABR on (617) 973-8787 or online. Alternatively, targets can file reports with the FTC or the Massachusetts A.G.’s Office.
What are Massachusetts IRS Scams?
These scams are rampant across the country, especially during tax season when residents are more likely to receive communications from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Perpetrators of these scams contact taxpayers while pretending to be representatives of the IRS. While these callers usually spoof caller IDs to display IRS caller information, reverse phone number lookup applications can help determine such calls’ authenticity. The callers typically inform their targets that they have outstanding tax debts that they must settle immediately. They ask for payments via wire transfers, prepaid cards, or request the targets’ credit/debit card information to collect payments. Residents who are hesitant to pay are threatened with fines, audits, arrests, and prosecutions to force their compliance. In other instances, the callers inform their targets that they are due fictitious tax refunds. They use this to collect sensitive information such as dates of birth, PINs, and SSNs, which are later used to commit identity thefts.
The IRS warns all taxpayers that it will never initiate contact with defaulters by telephone call. Communications with taxpayers are mainly by U.S. Mail, and the IRS will only initiate phone calls with taxpayers upon request. The IRS will also never insist on payments via such insecure channels as wire transfers and prepaid cards, nor will they make unsolicited requests for personal information. Tax defaulters are sent several past-due notices before payments are requested and are always provided the opportunity to contest the amounts quoted. If you receive these types of calls should ignore any requests or demands and hang up. Residents can file reports on these scams with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1 (800) 366-4484 or online. IRS scam complaints can also be made using the FTC complaint assistant.
How Do I Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Phone Scam?
- The first and most important thing is to acknowledge that anyone can be a victim of a phone scam, even you. Staying informed about scammers’ tactics makes it easier to identify when such tactics are being used on you. Use caution when dealing with unknown callers, especially those who are soliciting for something.
- Register your telephone number on a Do Not Call List. These are registries of phone numbers that do not wish to receive random telephone solicitations. The National Do Not Call Registry is administered by the FTC, and Massachusetts has a Do Not Call List managed by the OCABR. Phone numbers on either list are exempted from receiving unwanted solicitations from telemarketers and companies offering sales. It does not eliminate scam calls, but because legitimate organizations adhere to these regulations, you can treat further unwanted solicitations as potential scams.
- Do not engage robocalls. Terminate them as soon as you realize what they are and avoid pressing any numbers. Robocalls try to keep you on the call long enough to identify your phone number as active, which typically results in a deluge of robocalls.
- Treat phone numbers with strange area codes with suspicion. A reverse phone number search application can identify the locations of unknown area codes. There is no reason to answer a call if you have no connections there.
- Never share personal information such as dates of birth, social security numbers, banking and financial details, PINs, and passwords on unsolicited phone calls. No legitimate organization will request such information on a phone call you did not initiate.
- Be wary of callers who suddenly get hostile and use intimidatory tactics to coerce your compliance, especially if they claim to be law enforcement. Law enforcement officers will never threaten you over the phone for money or information.
- Business and investment opportunities that require an immediate response are potential scams. Be suspicious of a caller who does not provide satisfactory answers to your inquiries or dissuades you from conducting thorough research on a proposal.
- Several organizations provide information on scam and fraud trends and resources to assist residents in detection and avoidance. These organizations include the National Consumer League (NCL), Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
- Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Massachusetts residents can also file reports on phone scams with the OCABR, the Attorney-General’s Office, or local law enforcement.