Unfortunately, every year, it seems like new scams arise. Scams are common on email and Facebook. And if you have a cell phone that constantly rings with calls from unknown numbers, you probably know there are a fair number of phone scams out there.
The latest trickery is yet another phone scam. Impostors claiming to be part of the U.S. Justice Department call people. Then, they ask for personal information. If the recipient doesn’t answer, the scammer will leave a message with a return number. If the person calls the return number in the message, they’ll get a prerecorded menu that matches the actual Justice Department’s primary number. At some point, you’ll connect to a person pretending to be an employee or investigator from the department.
This scam is primarily targeting seniors. It’s especially challenging to combat these types of scams when many seniors are isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people may be more likely to pick up the phone and answer questions simply because they haven’t heard about this scam yet. It can also weaken people’s trust in the Justice Department.
The Justice Department is currently aware of the scam. In response, it is urging people not to provide any information. Instead, report any similar calls you receive to the authorities.
If you do give your information to a scammer, don’t panic. These scams are designed to sound legitimate, and they only get more complicated every year. One step you can take is to set up a credit monitoring program. Check and see if your bank or credit provider offers credit monitoring for free.
You can also put out a fraud alert on your credit report. This can be done through any of the three major credit reporting agencies, which are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. This will force a business to contact you and verify your identity before anyone takes out credit in your name. A more stringent measure is a credit freeze, which prevents any transactions from going through until you remove the freeze.
Finally, don’t forget to ask for help. Ask someone you trust deeply—perhaps your spouse or your tech-savvy child—to assist with any of the above countermeasures.