Senior scams

l Editor’s note: This monthly series highlights scams that target Trumbull County, particularly the senior community. Don Hyde is a retired sheriff’s deputy who is the program coordinator for the Trumbull County Office of Elderly Affairs Senior Services Unit, Warren. Contact him at 330-675-7096 or at eahyde@co.trumbull.oh.us

Remember that famous line from the movie “Network” when Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, as a newscaster was upset with company policies and had a meltdown — “I’m mad … and I’m not going to take this anymore”?

This is how I feel in regards to getting all of these robocalls every single day.

In order to talk about these robocalls, we should define what a robocall is. It is a phone call that uses computerized autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message, as if from a robot. They are often associated with political and telemarketing phone campaigns.

The majority of all scams using the phone involve robocalls. Everything from the infamous IRS calls to the grandparent scam is generated by robocalls.

I don’t know about you, but I must be getting at least seven calls a day between my cell and home phones. Calls ranging from paying off student loans to winning various vacations, plus the scam calls makes for a long and annoying day.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, robocalls and telemarketing calls are the number one source of consumer complaints.

Making telemarketing robocalls without the written permission from the recipient has been illegal since 2009. Apparently, that rule is not very well enforced. A lot of these calls are from overseas and enforcing the rules are very challenging.

When the Do Not Call List was created a few year ago, everyone though that this would help to prevent some of these calls. Congress is now learning that the list isn’t working anymore.

When the list was created, most of the calls came via the telephone lines. Now with the Internet, it is very easy to hide your identity online in a way that is impossible to trace.

With just a few clicks on a computer, a new number can be created and caller IDs can show that the number is coming from just about anywhere. Now the scammers are able to use the 330 area code plus a local prefix such as 856 to make the call look legit.

Here are some tips on how to deal with and prevent robocalls:

l If you have caller ID, check the number first. Rule of thumb, if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer. If the call is important, they will leave a voicemail.

l If you pick up a robocall, hang up immediately. If you press a number — even to be “removed from this list” — it signals that the autodialer reached a “live” number, and this can lead to more calls.

l If you should happen to get a “real” person and not a voice recording, do not try to reason with them. Don’t argue or debate with them. Don’t use the word “yes” or other words that can be recorded and spliced as an affirmative with them. Just HANG UP.

l Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s for both landlines and cellphones. It is free and your number is never taken off the list.

The best tip is don’t answer!

I know it is very annoying and just human nature to answer the phone because you’re curious about who is calling or that you want to give them a piece of your mind.

Remember, please, PLEASE do not give out any information over the phone. If you are interested in what they are selling, tell them to send you something in the mail, but do not give out any information. Just like in previous articles, scammers and crooks are everywhere and they are getting smarter and they are always improving their systems. Be very cautious.

So the next time you get a call telling you that you won a free trip, the IRS is after you, your grandchild is in trouble or some politician wants your vote, HANG UP.

Good luck and again, please be very careful on who you talk to on the phone.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call me at the Trumbull County Elderly Affairs, 330-675-7096. Also, I’m very willing to come and talk to any senior group in reference to various scams circulating against the elderly.

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