“No, a Cartel is Really Not in Front of Your House—Phone and Email Scams and What To Do”
While we are personal injury lawyers, today we thought we would write about something that we experienced yesterday. We got a phone call from someone claiming to be from Amazon. They even had a 206 area code (Seattle, Amazon’s headquarters) and said that my account appeared to be compromised. However, it was pretty obvious from the beginning that this was scam.
Everyday, millions of people are bombarded with phone calls, text messages, and emails warning them that their accounts have been compromised, that loved ones are in danger, or the recipient is going to be embarrassed by non-existent information.
Some scams include:
A person who claims to be from a criminal organization and sends you pictures of your home as he texts that he is right outside and will harm your family if you do not send money. (The pictures used are ones from Google street view or Zillow).
Someone who tells you that they are from Microsoft and that your account is compromised and they have access to your computer.
A person claiming to be from law enforcement with a warrant for your arrest, which will be lifted if you pay the officer money.
No, the cartel was not in front of your house, Microsoft is not calling you, and no a law enforcement officer cannot accept money directly to lift a warrant. Rather, these are all scams, meant to scare or persuade you to pay money, give financial information, or give control of your computer and your private information to a criminal. In some cases, people have lost their identity, access to their financial information, and thousands of dollars.
You can avoid being a victim of such a scam by taking the following steps:
Never, ever give out our passwords or usernames. No legitimate business will ever ask you for this information.
Don’t pay money to anyone. If someone calls and tells you that you need to pay the money to avoid some adverse consequence, i.e. arrest, harm, or danger to you or your family, this is NEVER legitimate.
Microsoft, Amazon, or any other legitimate company will not call you about a “compromised account.” If you do have account issues, they will email you about it and advise you what steps to take.
If someone calls you and sounds like a family member and asks for money, verify that it is really them. Scammers are always looking for new ways to steal from you and one particularly way is by using AI to mimic the voice of a loved one. Scammers lift the voice of a person off social media and by using AI, can actually construct messages of distress. In July 2023, a woman testified at a Senate hearing that she received a phone call from an unknown caller and upon answering heard her daughter begging to be rescued from kidnappers. It was not her daughter and thankfully, the woman called her husband, who was with her daughter and confirmed her safety. In order to avoid this, ask the caller questions that only the family member would know how to answer or adopt a phrase or word that the family member would use if really in trouble.
If in doubt, check it out. If you have any doubts or any suspicions at all about the legitimacy of the caller, ask for a call back number or simply hang up. Trust your instincts. If you are really concerned about the call, contact the family member supposedly in danger or law enforcement.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Unfortunately, many of these calls originate outside the US. However, a complaint with the FTC may enable the agency to issue warnings about such scams or, if the scam originates within the US, may lead to criminal prosecution. Go to www.reportfraud.ftc.gov
Bottom line: be careful with your information and your money, regard any unknown caller seeking money or information with suspicion, and hang up the phone or delete the email if you have any doubts. And, as always, Your Lawyers are always available to answer any questions you might have.