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Sadie Says… Warning signs and positive steps to take against fraudulent calls

Frequently asked questions about older adult issues

Q: Last week I received a live phone call purporting to be from an adult grandchild saying “Hello, Grandma.” I do not have relatives who fit that description. Then came repeated phone calls from “the Microsoft Refund Department,” not to mention numerous robocalls telling anyone who answered about having won a vacation prize. What can I do about these annoying fraudulent calls?

A: It’s a well known fact that scammers defraud consumers more frequently by telephone than by other means. More than 50 percent of all phone calls are now automated robocalls and more than 44 percent of mobile calls are fraudulent.

So, how can a person avoid this brewing epidemic of phone scams about which the Federal Trade Commission received nearly one million fraud complaints in 2017?

1. Recognize

warning signs

• Unsolicited calls from agents claiming to work for a government agency, utility company or technology firm are likely to be hoaxes because legitimate institutions will first communicate by other means.

• Unsolicited calls from charity fundraisers, especially following disasters.

• Calls advertising products or service that sound “too good to be true.”

• Automated sales calls from a company that you did not authorize to phone you.

2. Take positive steps

• Refuse to answer calls from unknown numbers.

• Reject anonymous calls automatically (some phone providers have Anonymous Call Rejection, which you can use by dialing *77 and hanging up, after which any call hiding its number will be rejected.)

• Use a computer to place your phone number(s) on the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry, www.donotcall.gov.

• Consider using Caller ID or a call-blocking mobile app to screen calls, many which require a small monthly fee; however, check with your service provider as some now provide free Scam ID and free Scam Block.

• Hang up on illegal robocalls trying to sell you something. Ask questions of telemarkets because legitimate businesses, charities and political organizations will provide information and not pressure you to purchase items or make donations. It’s your right to take time to consider making any payment.

• Hang up and independently research travel deals and charitable or business opportunities you might learn about through unsolicited phone calls.

• Don’t return one-ring calls from unknown area code numbers — many of these are really from out-of-country, and they entail expensive connection charges.

— Sadie Says is provided by the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition.

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