As a card-carrying member of the Benevolent Order of Old Fogies (BOOF, as we insiders call it, although most people just call it AARP), I receive regular newsletters and online alerts about the latest phone and internet scams to come down the pike. It’s enough to make you as nervous as … as … well, as somebody who’s very nervous.
F’rinstance, you’ve got your basic tax scam. Voice: “Is here IRS, Internally Revenue Services of U.S.A. You long time not making with payment! You now perhaps pay, or moose and squirrel come to house! You are paying of course now!” OK, maybe not that heavy-handed, but sometimes it’s delivered in a slight Russian accent. Don’t give them any information, just hang up.
And you’ve got your grannie scam. Voice: “This is the Police Department. We’ve got your son (or grandson, or nephew) here in the lockup. You need to send $500 right away to bail him out.” My neighbor, who’s in her 80s, got one of these calls. “Oh, really?” she replied. “What’s his sister’s name?” (“Click.” Nice job, Mrs. C.) Or you can just hang up.
Then there’s the tech-support scam: Someone calls and says they’re with Microsoft or Windows, and that there’s a problem with your computer. I’ve gotten a number of calls from “Robert,” at “the main computer office,” who just wanted to help me, and so forth.
Hang up. AARP says millions of people, many of them seniors, have been ripped off this way.
There are also scams around fake charities, fake gift cards for well-known companies, fake dating services (sometimes supposedly faith-based). There are people who scan the obituaries, then call a grieving widow, pretending to be a bank official, to steal her money.
There’s also the silent-call con. The phone will ring only once or twice. You look at Caller I.D. but you don’t recognize the number. They’re counting on curiosity getting the better of you: Once you’ve gotten a call from the same number several times, you may be tempted to call it, just to find out what’s up.
Don’t, AARP warns. Some of these numbers (especially in area codes 284, 809 and 876) are in certain Caribbean countries and you will later find high per-minute charges on your phone bill.
In other words, there are scams and cons galore: lottery scams, insurance scams, you name it — more scams, it seems, than Carter’s got pills, and many of the new ones are enabled by the internet that has otherwise made life so easy and has connected people to the world.
I hate to be any more paranoid than absolutely necessary, but it’s gotten to the point that any unsolicited email, and any phone call from an unfamiliar number, is suspect; there may very well be a top-notch, professional con man at the other end.
AARP says, never click a link in an unsolicited email or divulge personal info, no matter how enticing the offer or how sad the sob story. It’s not worth the risk you’re taking.
Egg-on-Face Department: In my April 1 column I gave the impression that the South Meriden Volunteer Fire Department is being professionalized. Not so. It is being merged into the Meriden Fire Department for organizational reasons, but it will remain a volunteer operation. I regret the confusion.
Reach Glenn Richter at firstname.lastname@example.org.