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Mar. 13 – The Week in Phone Fraud

TWIPF2This week in phone fraud, IRS scammers make bad choices, and authorities crack down on robocallers around the world.

IRS phone scammers made some unfortunate choices on targets this week. Senator Johnny Isakson, Catherine Fredman of Consumer Reports, and Timothy Camus, the deputy inspector general of the US Tax Administration, all received IRS scam calls. CNNMoney reported that Camus testified to a Senate panel that IRS scammers are not discriminating. “They are calling people everywhere, of all income levels and backgrounds.”

Also this week, authorities in the US, Canada, and the UK each cracked down on robocalls and phone spam. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office raided a call center linked to millions of UK robocalls. Canada’s federal telecommunications regulator announced it was charging Caribbean Cruise Line Inc. $200,000 for robocalling Canadians. Finally, police arrested NY resident Joseph Simon Arsenault in Bangkok, charging him with operating a fraudulent telemarketing scheme.


Full Breakdown of This Week’s Fraud News

Bloomberg Business: Tax Season Scams Persist as U.S. Officials Play Whack-A-Mole – Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, said he and his wife received one of the calls. “Being a member of this committee, I realized that probably wasn’t true,” he said. “It was a very, very convincing phone call.”

Forbes: Fake IRS Agent Scam Targets Public, Even Feds, While Identity Theft Tax Fraud Is RampantMost people find the calls unsettling but don’t pay, but more than 3,000 people have been conned out of a total of $15.5 million. The alarming figures were presented to the Senate Finance Committee.

CSO Online: Call recording on: Listen to an actual Microsoft support scam as it happened – Criminals are a tricky bunch. One of their favorite scams targets those who own a computer, but lack any real technical knowledge other than how to browse the Web. The scam starts with a call that warns of problems.

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Feds join in the investigation of Peachtree City phone pranksters – Two juveniles suspected in a bogus 911 report that triggered a SWAT team raid “did their homework” before phoning dispatchers, police said. Pranksters researched names of tenants to make their claim that a family was being held at gunpoint there seem real.

Orlando Sentinel: Vile scam fakes bloody accident, seeks money – When I asked Detective Johan Anderson how many collars she’d made on these phone scams in her 10 years with the consumer-fraud division, she responded: “Personally? None. Sadly, it’s usually a dead end for us. I spend more of my time on prevention.”

Dallas Morning News: IRS impostors, scams are running rampant – “While identity theft remains an issue, consumers should also keep a eye out for impostor scams,” said the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Whether it’s pretending to be the IRS, or making false promises of a lottery win, scammers are increasingly sophisticated.”

No Jitter: Pindrop Security – This is where Pindrop steps in. Imagine the same scenario as before, but instead of stopping verification after the account number and password are entered, a second level of authentication begins that literally listens for fraud inside the audio conversation.

KSLA News: Secretary of State warns businesses of phone scam – Secretary of State Tom Schedler is alerting all business owners of reports of fraudulent phone calls being made concerning the filing of their annual reports. A company has contacted businesses in the state seeking to file their annual reports for a service fee of $125.

Pitchbook: 10 of the Fastest-growing Companies Your Don’t Know About – Below are 10 companies that experienced the largest growth during February according to their pre-money valuation step-up multiples, a metric obtained by dividing a company’s current valuation by the valuation of its previous round.

FTC Blog: Your top 5 questions about unwanted calls and the National Do Not Call Registry – You signed up for the Do Not Call Registry ages ago, but you’re suddenly getting a bunch of unwanted calls. What can you do? Hang up. When you get illegal sales calls or robocalls, don’t interact in any way. Don’t press buttons to be taken off the call list.

Bangkok Post: American linked to phone scam captured in Bangkok – Mr Arsenault is among 16 people charged with operating a fraudulent telemarketing scheme that embezzled over $20 million. He is suspected of using call centres in Florida and New York to call individuals across the United States offering to sell homes in Detroit.

No Jitter: Empowering Mobile Customers… & Agents – One of the worst kinds of repetition in the contact center, for example, is the machinations companies put customers through to authenticate themselves. This is especially, and understandably, true when dealing with financial institutions.

ITV: Lancashire residents warned over ‘fake policeman’ phone fraud – All involve the caller saying that the victim has been targeted for some sort of crime relating to their bank or bank card. The victim is asked for their bank account details or they are asked to transfer a substantial amount of money to a ‘safe’ account.

Slate: A Brief History of Swatting, the Criminal Hoax that Just Befell Lil Wayne – “The FBI looks at these crimes as a public safety issue,” FBI agent Kevin Kolbye reported on the agency’s official website in 2013. “It’s only a matter of time before somebody gets seriously injured as a result of one of these incidents.”

CNN: The evolution of hacking – The first generation of true hackers were “phreakers,” a bunch of American punks who toyed with the nation’s telephone system. In 1971, they discovered that if you whistle at a certain high-pitched tone, you could access AT&T’s long-distance switching system.

Krebs on Security: Apple Pay: Bridging Online and Big Box Fraud – Banks could pressure Apple Pay to make their users take a picture of their credit cards. But in the end, most banks are still using customer call centers to validate new users, leveraging data that can be purchased very cheaply from underground identity theft sites.

The Toronto Star: CRTC fines Florida company $200,000 for robocalls to Canadians – The annoying ship horn promising a free cruise to the Bahamas has been silenced for good. The CRTC found that the company used an automatic dialing-announcing device to telephone numbers registered on Canada’s national Do Not Call List.

The Register: UK call centre linked to ‘millions’ of nuisance robo-calls raided by ICO – Officers from the ICO conducted the operation against a business in the Brighton area suspected of using automatic dialling technology to make 4-6 million recorded telephone calls a day about debt management or payment protection insurance.

Consumerist: Why Do Robocalls Continue In An Age Of “Do Not Call” And Strict Telemarketing Rules? – Kristi Thompson of the FCC explained that it can take her from 5-10 subpoenas to trace a single robocall back to its origin — and that’s only if the information is still there. Phone service providers can’t be expected to hold on to all their records indefinitely.

FTC Blog: It’s the IRS calling…or is it? – This has all the signs of an IRS imposter scam. In fact, the IRS won’t call out of the blue to ask for payment, won’t demand a specific form of payment, and won’t leave a message threatening to sue you if you don’t pay right away. Have you gotten a bogus IRS call like this?

CNN Money: Scammer tries to swindle top tax-crime fighter – You know tax scams are out of hand when a criminal posing as an IRS agent calls one of the country’s top tax-crime fighters. Yet that’s exactly what happened to Timothy Camus, the deputy inspector general for investigations at the agency that oversees the IRS.

Business Insider: Swatting’ is a dangerous new trend, as pranksters call SWAT team on an unsuspecting victim while the internet watches – Cybercriminals canmake it appear as if the prank call to police originated at the residence of the unsuspecting victim. Police, with no other choice, often send out SWAT teams.

Consumer Reports: Watch out for tax-season robocall scams – The phone message literally scared me silly. I like to think that I’m reasonably savvy about phone scams but due to a mistake by my accountant, I did owe the IRS. I assumed the call meant our ongoing dispute had been decided–against me–and I had to pay up.

KKTV: Phone Scam Targets Dish Network Customers – The man then told John he could replace the $800 receiver with a new one for $150. He read off the last 4 digits of John’s credit card number and asked to add the new charge. We were thinking, ‘Oh, how did he get that?’ Josh said.


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