If You Get a Call From These Numbers, "Don't Believe Your Caller ID," FBI Says in New Warning
Scammers are getting craftier, and they're using recent events to their advantage.
If you've never been called by a scammer or gotten a robocall, consider yourself very lucky. Most of us are plagued by near-constant calls from fraudsters, all looking to make a quick buck off of unsuspecting victims. You're probably aware of some common scams conducted through text and email, but when someone tries to trick you over the phone, it can be more disorienting. Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning the public about a new kind of phone scam that's becoming more popular—and it's even fooling your caller ID. Read on to find out what phone numbers the FBI is asking you to keep an eye out for.
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Americans are still reeling from last week's weather.
Hurricane Ian ravaged the East Coast last week, leaving 3.4 million people in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia without power, according to The Washington Post. Currently, the death toll is 68, most of which were drownings in Florida—where Ian landed as a Category 4 storm—but deaths were also reported in North Carolina and Cuba, and experts expect the number to rise.
The devastating storm is also estimated to have caused over $60 billion in insured losses—just in Florida, The Washington Post reported. This staggering number, paired with the loss of life, is enough to tug on anyone's heartstrings, and you might be compelled to do what you can to help. However, the FBI is asking that you take caution if you want to lend a helping hand.
Scammers know that people want to be good samaritans.
According to the FBI, charity fraud schemes capitalize on your willingness to help those in need, and scammers will reach out directly for "donations." These scams become "especially prevalent" following disasters, and in the wake of Hurricane Ian, you need to stay on high alert.
"Scammers will leverage a natural disaster to steal your money, your personal information, or both," the Oct. 4 alert from the FBI Field Office in Omaha, Nebraska, reads. The Tampa office also issued a warning on Oct. 3, calling Hurricane Ian a "high-profile disaster" that criminals will exploit.
"Charity fraud schemes seek donations for organizations that do little or no work—instead, the money goes to the fake charity's creator," the alert from Tampa states.
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Your caller ID can be fooled as well.
These scammers are brazen enough to call your phone, and they're sophisticated enough to "spoof" the phone numbers of legitimate agencies. This means that your caller ID might tell you that a reputable charity is calling you to ask for donations, but that's not the case.
"Don't believe your caller ID," the warning from the Omaha FBI office reads, adding that you should take a second to research an organization's official number and "call directly to verify" that it's the same number reaching out to you. A surefire sign that you're being scammed is when the caller tries to pressure you or rush you to donate over the phone, the agency said, so keep your guard up if you feel like those tactics are being employed.
In addition to phone calls, scammers use email, social media, and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe. But regardless of their contact methods, the FBI stresses the need to "do your homework when it comes to donations." This includes checking reviews and ratings on the Better Business Bureau and verifying the charity name and URL—legitimate organizations with use ".org" not ".com."
When you do decide to make a donation, never give via gift cards or wire transfers (go with a credit card to be safe), and check your bank accounts to make sure that you haven't been swindled out of additional funds.
Thieves are also targeting disaster victims.
If you've already lost property or experienced damage to your home as a result of a natural disaster, it's hard to imagine taking additional financial and emotional blows. But this is, unfortunately, another area where thieves thrive.
According to warning from the FBI office in Tampa, scammers and "unethical contractors" try to commit insurance fraud in these situations, effectively "re-victimizing people whose homes or businesses have been damaged." This is another instance where scammers will claim that they have a government affiliation.
The FBI again asks that you "do your research" if you need to hire a contractor or need and repairs as the result of a hurricane, tornado, or related disaster.