Protecting yourself from the phone scam epidemic

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16 2012 10:31 a.m. MDT

Jean Tatum of Custer, Wash., figures she lost about $15,000 after someone called her claiming to be her granddaughter and said she needed money for bail in Canada. "All I care about is helping somebody else out," Tatum said. "We have got to stop it. We have got to get the public educated."

Katie Greene, Bellingham Herald

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Phone scams, which threaten the victim’s family members in an attempt to get them to quickly transfer funds, are on the rise, according to The Miami Herald.

Stories that scammers tell the victim range from faked kidnappings to claiming a relative in a motorcycle accident to claiming to be a relative in need of a bail bond.

Seventy thousand complaints of phone scams were filed with the FTC in 2011, up from 37,500 in 2010, a number that was less than 11,000 the year before, according to The Miami Herald.

To stop such scams in their tracks, wire transfer companies like Western Union and Money Gram train their staff to spot suspicious behavior in customers, interview them and withhold the transfer until they know the receiver’s identity, according to the Miami Herald article.

People who receive phone calls they believe could be a scam should stay calm, make contact with the relative involved, attempt to get information about the caller and never send money, since it is usually impossible to retrieve.

EMAIL: sparker@desnews.com

TWITTER: @SeanRParker

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