A girlfriend shared how her mom, who she thought was of sound mind, was fooled into thinking that she (my girlfriend) had been kidnapped. They tried to get her mom to a check cashing place to wire money for her release.
Thankfully, her mom navigated it well but it was a quite a traumatic event. Her mom lives in a condo and kept the fraudster on the phone while she went down to the concierge who called the police. However, she was wondering if her mom was really of sound mind if she fell for this.
I confirmed to her that really smart people can be victims of this scam because the fraudsters are so good. In fact the FTC reported that the kidnapping scam is the top “Imposter Scam” for 2017 and cost Americans at least $328 million.
As a Daily Money Manager, I work with older adults in their homes and one of the first things I do is implement a call screening solution. In metro-DC, I can implement Nomorobo which is free service from Verizon. The Nomorobo website can help you find out if you can get their free service in your area.
You will immediately notice the quiet once you implement this feature in your own home.
If you can’t get a service like Nomorobo, you can purchase a call blocking device like Sentry 2 that lets you blacklist numbers. It does require that you tag calls to the “blacklist” to block, and you can also add numbers and only get calls from those on your “whitelist”. It can fill the need but does require assistance to be effective.
Two other simple options include:
- Sign up for “Anonymous Call Rejection” with your local carrier. This service rejects calls from anyone that has blocked their caller ID information. It is usually something you can enable using *77 but varies by provider.
- Never answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number. Real people trying to reach you will leave a message.
Eventually, I think the FTC might start requiring phone companies to offer more protections for their clients. They have admitted the “Do No Call” list is a total failure. Technology improvements are great … it just stinks that crooks are always looking for ways to separate us from our money. For now, it’s our job to help protect ourselves and our loved ones.
For more on this topic, check out this story:
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Virtual Kidnapping Scam The Washington Post