We have an update on our VoIP scams blog this week. According to Huffington Post, scammers have used outsourced call centers to "defraud Americans out of more than $5 million over the past two years." If this doesn't startle you, perhaps it should.
Using phones to swindle the consumer is nothing new. More insidious in this case, the Indian call center workers posed as reps from the "Federal Department of Crime and Prevention." Consumers were threatened with fines or arrest if they did not pay a bill of (in the example) $730.
"More than 8 million calls were made since 2010 and at least 17,000 transactions processed across the United States related to the global scam." -Huffington Post
From the outside, such extortion appears obvious. To my knowledge, the US government (and each state) regulates debt collection agencies and does not pursue debtors itself. However, for a consumer already worried about debt and bills after the 21st century economic meltdown, how much time do you have to think about fraud when an "official" from the government puts on the pressure?
Additionally, the scammers had access to the Social Security and bank account numbers of their victims — the most alarming fact — from apparently unscrupulous payday lenders.
Don't worry, the FTC is on it! The scammers will definitely be fined lots of money, but no consumers will be refunded. Yeah!
Anyway, with any technology, VoIP is a tool; it's how you use it that counts. Outgoing call centers, as I'm sure you've noticed, are notoriously obnoxious. What I mean is, the call centers were probably using VoIP for cheap international calls (sorry).
Some VoIP scam reminders for you:
- Never give out personal or financial information over the phone
- If you are being threatened with fines, jailtime, or violence, hang up
- If they say you owe money, hang up — legitimate debt collection will also arrive in writing
Check this blog out for more info on debt collection.