Robo call and ATM scam artists exploit public ignorance: Internet Scambusters #437
Automated call tricksters and ATM scam artists are hoping you won't read this week's Snippets issue.
We'll show you how they exploit public ignorance of how to use ATMs if the keys jam, or the fact that some 800 numbers actually aren't toll-free, to steal your money.
We've also got the lowdown on a sneaky mortgage transfer scam that tries to get victims to redirect their monthly payments to the crooks.
Glue-Toting Crooks Launch ATM Scam
This week, we have a Snippets issue for you, covering a new type of ATM scam, a resurgence of bogus "robo calls" and a mortgage transfer con trick.
In the ATM scam, thieves use a cunning new trick based on old technology -- glue! -- to fool and rob their unsuspecting victims.
They stick down a number of keys, halting the transaction after users have inserted their cards and keyed in their PIN numbers.
Then, while the victim goes to report that the machine has jammed, the crook sneaks up and completes the transaction by using the ATM's touchscreen.
It works because the scammers glue down the "Enter," "Cancel" and "Clear" buttons, which aren't needed until after entering the PIN, and most people don't realize that the machine can be operated by touching the screen (though not all have this feature).
At the time of writing, this new ATM scam has happened only in California but it's probably just a matter of time before it pops up elsewhere.
And although the incidents are a first for the US, it's not the first time glue has been used for ATM theft.
In 2010, a man was arrested in New Delhi after allegedly gluing down ATM keys, then releasing them with a screwdriver when the victim went to report the problem.
So, be aware that not only machines with touchscreens are vulnerable to this type of ATM theft.
Action: If keys appear to be jammed after you've inserted your card, check to see if the machine has the touch screen feature and use that to complete your transaction, and then report it.
Whether it has a touch screen or not, if you have a cell phone, call your bank while remaining by the machine.
If you don't have a phone, borrow someone else's. Alternatively, ask someone you trust or stop a random passerby (don't necessarily trust the person behind you in line!) and ask them to go into the bank for help.
If you're not near the bank -- say in a convenience store -- it's even more important you contact the bank to cancel your card and any transaction before you leave the machine.
Then, even if the crook does manage to get some money, your bank will likely cover you for the loss.
Add this latest ATM theft trick to the many other ATM scams and skimming crimes we've reported in previous issues.
New Surge in Robo Call Scams
Just recently, we reported on the curse of robo calls -- automated calls that usually connect you to a pesky telesales person or deliver a recorded message.
We explained how you can use the Do Not Call Register to avoid most (but not all) of them in our article: How to Put a Stop to Telemarketing Harassment.
But, in addition to those who legally can call you even if you're on the register (political parties and charities, for instance), crooks, who don't give a fig for the law, also use automated calling to spam and scam their victims -- or just to drive them nuts!
For example, a member of the Scambusters team, who is on the Do Not Call Register, recently started receiving several calls a day.
One of the callers said something like "Hi. I saw your ad on the Internet. We have a terrible cell phone connection. Please call me at 800-***-****."
We intentionally blanked out the number, which is almost certainly a toll free scam -- because what a lot of people don't realize is that not all 800 or 888 (or other numbers beginning with 8) are free.
Let's repeat that: Not all 800 numbers are free. So don't call someone you don't know, just because they gave you one of these numbers.
If you want to know more about this, read this guide, Facts for Consumers, from the Federal Trade Commission.
Of course, other robocalling scams, the most common ones in fact, pretend to be an alert from your bank and provide you with a number that links you to the con artist who then asks for your account details.
Most recently, we've seen a surge in these phony automated phone calls from crooks claiming to be from Washington Mutual Bank.
But the same rule applies to all supposed messages about your account, by robo-call, text or email: If you get a message purportedly from your bank, use their phonebook number to call and check it out, or stop by the bank and ask.
Watch Out for This Mortgage Transfer Scam
Finally, here's a sneaky mortgage scam that recently cropped up in Nevada, where homeowners received letters claiming their mortgage had been sold by its original holder -- a bank -- to another organization.
This mortgage transfer is actually something banks really do, but in this case the letters came from scammers who told victims to send their future monthly payments to them.
Action: If you ever receive such a letter, simply contact your current mortgage provider and check out the details with them.
That's a wrap for this week. Remember, there's always something new in the world of scammers. It may be as high-tech as automated calls, but it can also be as simple as a phony mortgage transfer letter -- or an ATM scam artist armed with a glue gun!
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.