Phone scammers now using local numbers

Scammers are turning to local phone numbers as they try to steal your money.
February 24, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Scammers are turning to local phone numbers as they try to steal your money. It's surprising what little work scammers have to put in before they can begin making their cold calls. Using Google Voice, they can sign up with 559 numbers. In a matter of minutes, they can bilk you out of thousands of dollars.

A quick call from a local number nearly cost an 82-year-old Coarsegold woman $1,000. Madera County Sheriff's investigators say the woman received the call from someone claiming to be her grandson, in desperate need. He pleaded with her to wire him money.

"It's generally an off-shore number," said Erica Stuart with the Madera County Sheriff's Department. "But now they've gotten so clever that doing this Google deal, you see a 559, if it wasn't for the fact that her grandson lives in Seattle."

Still, the woman tried to help. But the sheriff's department says she got lucky and was saved from the scam.

"She had to go to her son in order to remove the funds to send to her supposed grandson," Stuart said. "And he knew something was up."

Madera County Sheriff's investigators say it's likely scammers are using Google Voice, a PC-to-phone program that anyone can sign up for online. The department says the scariest part is it just takes a few clicks to find local, Valley numbers that go untraced.

"A lot of people will actually sign up for Google Voice who do buying and selling on eBay and Craigslist, because you want to retain a bit of anonymity and protect your own privacy," said Stuart. "And then you have people like this caller who exploited that."

Local numbers can be convincing, but authorities say don't be fooled and always follow your instinct and watch for red flags.

"If you get someone who calls you with the urgency that you need to wire the money, hang up," Stuart advises.

The sheriff's department says the elderly are easy targets for these phone scammers. In this case, the names of the near-victims were pulled from a recent obituary.


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