How Scammers Scam

Steve Propes

There are uncounted ways those with less than worthy motives can separate a trusting person from his or her money. One is likely as old as the landline, once known as the telephone. These days, the most common way to take a few bucks from the unsuspecting is through the internet.

According to an eastside resident and robo call tracker we’ll call Noah, the nuisance phone call still is in the running. Recently, two scams have emerged: the calls from phony Microsoft technicians who try to convince the victim to let them take control of their computer and the other

is a call from a fake IRS agent threatening imminent arrest if money is not sent in his, never her, direction. Somehow the arrest consistently fails to happen to those who ignore these calls.

According to national statistics, the average phone user receives about 900 of these calls a year, about 2.9 billion calls in all. In the last two years, excluding the Microsoft and IRS calls, calls from “local handymen” have been exceeded only by calls from the “home center.”

A person with an untraceable accent begins a pitch like this. “Hi, I’m Roy.  I spoke with your wife (he or she always knows her full name) about home improvement a year ago and she suggested I call back in a year.” They are counting on the reality you or your wife won’t remember everyone she or you spoke with during the past year. 

Then comes the clincher.  “I remember she was very nice to me.”  That part is the key, the theory being Noah is not likely to hang up or be mean to a person who has called him or his family member very nice.  “So I thought I’d call back to find out if you’re still interested.”  Truth be told, it’s more like “I thought I’d call back to see if you’re a sucker.”

Often, when these calls start, the person taking the call hears a dead line, as the robo call person hasn’t caught up with the computer that made the call. When he or she comes on the line, a specific noise can be heard, best described as a burp, the sound the machine makes when putting the caller on the line. The caller has a screen that gives the full name and street address of the person being called. This information can be obtained from buying call lists from vendors. Thus the caller will often say, “Is this Noah Norman?” An appropriate response would be, “Who’s calling?”

This is where it gets tricky. “Can you hear me okay?” asks the caller. Noah now has a choice. Seems innocent enough. Why not say “yes”? Problem is, the “yes” is being recorded to indicate that assent had been given to whatever pitch had been given by the vendor. Instead, the answer “no” would be appropriate, but hanging up would be the best move. 

Then there are the internet sites that promise romance. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau wants to pass on a few tips to deal with certain romantic scams: 

  • Examine profile pictures and question if they may have been stolen from another, unrelated site.

  • Compare profile pictures to listed physical descriptions to see if they match.

  • Closely review profile pictures for small details, such as wedding rings.

  • Ask a series of questions over an extended period of time and watch for inconsistencies in answers.

  • Realize many male scammers list their occupations as engineers, and many female scammers list theirs as models.

  • Conduct online research to confirm information you find matches what is listed in the person’s profile.

  • Ask specific questions about locales in the other person’s listed city and confirm they match their profile.

  • Be wary of online daters who ask to communicate by other online means, a common tactic used by scammers.

  • Check spelling, grammar and sentence structure in profiles; there may be tell-signs the person may be communicating from another country, feigning close proximity.

  • Never send sexually explicit or compromising images, which can be used as leverage in an extortion attempt.

  • Beware of online daters who become affectionate or serious too soon, including the use of pet names such as “babe,” “sweetie,” “hon” and “love.”

  • Beware of grandiose stories such as princes in other countries who fall in love online and wish to spend their inheritance on people they do not know.

Above all, do not send money, gift cards or wire money transfers. “If you believe the person with whom you are communicating is a scammer, stop all communication immediately, block their access to your profile, and block their email and phone number.” If you’ve sent money, contact the wire company immediately to stop the transfer and call the cops.



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