Study, 71% Report More Phone Scam Messages In Harlem And Beyond

January 30, 2024

The next time you drive down 118th Street in Harlem, imagine this – nearly every house on your block has been hit by a scam of some type.

new study by BeenVerified found that 71.10% of Americans reported an increase in scam phone calls and texts this past year, with nearly half of those consumers getting scam messages every single day. 

The trouble doesn’t stop there, though. More than one in every 10 say they lost cash to scammers, with an average loss of around $250. One consumer said they lost $180,000 to scammers.

The most reported fraud attempts and their tell-tale signs

Mortgage, credit card and student loan debt reduction calls, fake package delivery and business imposter scams were among the most commonly reported fraud attempts.

Now, mind you, some of these are becoming old hat, but what BeenVerified shared with ConsumerAffairs are the angles that scammers use to perpetrate these scams, and having an idea of what those pitches look and sound like could save you hundreds of dollars, not to mention the cost of throwing a pity party.

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1. Reducing your debt (credit cards, mortgage, student loans): 32.59% 

“Scammers follow the news, and with interest rates climbing—as well as student debt forgiveness still a topic of public conversation—it makes sense that this scam attempt was common this year,” BeenVerified’s Robert Lowry, VP of Security, told ConsumerAffairs.

“Here, fraudsters attempt to get users to reveal personal information by touting fake debt reduction plans.” 

Some examples of this scam were reported by users of a reverse phone tool operated by BeenVerified this past year: 

  • [A] person keeps calling me telling me they are from the student forgiveness program. Little do they know that I don’t have any student loans. They keep calling me.
  • I think I was scammed through a “first time home buyer program” to help with closing fees, title, and a low monthly payment for the mortgage. I paid $1,500 and when I started asking more questions, all contacts expired. 

2. Fake package delivery scam: 31.04% 

Scammers locked on to this trick during the pandemic and it worked so well that they’re still using it. The basic premise is that someone gets a notice of late package deliveries from USPS, FedEx, UPS and other well-known companies and inside the notice is a dodgy link or a request to call a number, often in the hopes of getting the target to divulge compromising information. 

  • Message: “Our driver can’t find your address, and your package is still pending. And Our driver will redeliver tomorrow. Please provide your complete address at https://——” However, when I clicked on that link, I was directed to a website that ended with the country code .ru. (The domain typically associated with Russian websites.) 

3. Business imposter scams: 28.10% 

Delivery scams’ next-of-kin are imposter scams – Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, banks, Social Security, etc. – where a scammer contacts a consumer pretending to be from the company, offering to help them through supposed tech support issues, account issues or confirmations.

The scammers’ ploy is to catch the target off-guard and to make them think that something’s wrong and needs to be fixed NOW!

  • “This number was used in an email to me by a scammer “Steve” with a foreign accent claiming to be from the “Geek Squad” who tried to convince me I had recently opted for a trial period of services, and that I had agreed to pay $489 annual fee when trial period ended. Not true. He said that to cancel the subscription, I had to download “——–.com” which is spyware. Beware. 

4. Warranties and protection plans: 27.71% 

“In this fraud attempt, scammers pose as company representatives telling you that your home or auto warranty is about to expire. They may even have information about your home or car that may lure you into thinking it’s legitimate,” Lowry said. 

“But really, they are likely trying to get personal information, such as your social security number, account number or other information, to hack your accounts.” Here’s a couple of examples…

  • A scammer calls saying my car warranty is about to expire and I must renew it right now. All this is fascinating since I don’t even own a car. 
  • They keep calling to sell me an extended vehicle warranty. I’ve repeatedly asked them not to call, but they won’t stop. If I ask who they are, they hang up. 

5. Banking and financial scams: 25.70% 

Another fear-mongering approach scammers are using these days are impersonating banks to try and get you to reveal your information. After all, who wouldn’t trust their bank, right? Uh-huh.

Often, it comes as an alarming message saying a fraudulent purchase has been attempted; but really, the fraud is the scam message itself.

Here’s a couple of samples: 

  • Scammer took $17,000 from my bank. Used the name Jeff, and said he was from my bank.
  • [I] was texted from this number reporting a personal bank account was charged by an unauthorized person. Reply Y if recognized or N if unauthorized. I said yes and then was called from a different number and spoke to a scammer who tried to get into my account. I notified the bank and took care of it. 

How to try to protect yourself from scammers

BeenVerified’s Lowry says that there are five gold standards for preventing being taken by a scammer:  

  1. Don’t give anyone your personal information (especially your Social Security number)
  2. Give any email address or web address an extra hard look to see if there’s some weird character (“wel1sfargo” [notice the “1” instead of an “l”?] or “wallmart”)
  3. Don’t fall for any urgent requests
  4. Don’t pay with gift cards
  5. Don’t pay something up front to guarantee a prize (like Publishers Clearing House) 

These still hold true, but the one suggestion that Lowry shared and few others have, is to check the phone number.

“Use a reverse phone tool which may help you determine if others have reported fishy activity from the phone or text number in question,” Lowry suggests.

“Unfortunately, scam attempts via phone, text messages and other online platforms appear to be a chronic concern—but patience and common sense can go a long way in alleviating the threat. Remember to think twice before responding in haste to any message claiming your account has been compromised—check directly with the company in question instead.”

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