DES MOINES, Iowa -- We’ve heard the stories before and probably experienced it ourselves. You answer the phone only to find out it’s a scammer on the other line trying to get your money.
While these fraudulent calls have been around for years, a First Orion report is predicting nearly 50 percent of calls to your cell phone will be either scams or robocalls in 2019.
“We get the ones all the time from insurance or credit card, money. They come in every day,” Mary Lou Olauson said.
Olauson, an Altoona resident, was almost a victim not too long ago.
“I had one several months ago. A young man pretending to be my grandson, needing money to get out of jail,” Olauson said.
Luckily she knew better.
“I said, ‘you’re not my grandson.’ ‘Well, I am grandma.’ And I said, ‘you’re not because my grandson talks different than you’re talking,’” Olauson explained.
But others aren’t so lucky. The grandparent scam is just one of the hundreds of ways these imposter scams try to fool people, and a local AARP Fraud Watch group is working to try and educate Iowans before it’s too late.
“We have to be vigilant all the time and just be aware that these scams exist,” said Neil Schultz, a Fraud Watch volunteer. “They are going to play on our good nature. They are going to play on our Iowa Nice.”
According to a Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, one in five people lost money to imposter scams in 2017. In Iowa alone, $4.2 million was lost due to fraud.
“You hear these stories and you think, ‘how can somebody possibly fall for this stuff. This is so obviously scams,’ but things that are obvious in settings like this, or in a group setting, are not quite so obvious when these guys get a hold of you because they are criminals. They are consummate con artists,” Schultz said.
Schultz added the biggest thing to remember is slow down and think it through. Just because the phone number looks familiar doesn’t mean it’s someone you can trust.
Schultz also wants people to remember these scams target everyone. In fact, in that 2017 report, millennials reported losing money to financial scams more than any other age group. But when people 70 years old and older fall for scams, they fall hard, reporting on average almost twice the amount of money lost than millennials.
If you want to set up a group presentation by the local AARP Fraud Watch, call (515) 697-1011.