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Beware Of Scams

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by sunnysideup, Mar 22, 2022.

  1. sunnysideup

    sunnysideup Silver IL'ite

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    Hello everybody,
    I have been a member of indus ladies for a long time and am more of a silent observer rather than posting actively. But today I had a harrowing experience which I feel needs to be shared and others will not fall into the trap like me.
    Firstly I relocated to US around 3 months ago and stay here with my husband. We obviously have all the necessary visa and documentation in place which I am very much aware of. But still I was taken for a ride.
    Today morning I received a call from a lady telling that there some missing information/forms which were supposed to filled by me but I have not done so. An officer will be calling me to discuss further and I at no time should be calling anybody including my husband as my phone is under constant surveilance.
    He called and spoke very authoritatively introduced himself as some officer and asked me to google forms ar-11 which supposedly needs to be filled by me. It should have been filled within 10 days which i have failed to do. He told me not to call my husband, as immigration issues might cause him to lose his job.Please cooperate with us so that we help you reduce the sentence. He mentioned he has an arrest warrant under my name I need to arrange for the bail amount. Since I mentioned I donot have a debit / credit card with me, he asked me to go to Walmart and buy gift cards with 200 dollar cash I had with me. He asked me to share the card numbers along with the activation number(big red flag i know but the educated me did not even realize that in the panic mode) Some of the further things I did during the course of this horrid day were
    . Going to my bank and with drawing 4000 dollars amount
    . Apart from Walmart going to other supermarkets like Walgreens, Albertsons etc and buying more gift cards and sharing the details like an idiot
    . Not even receiving my husband's call and believing whatever they say.
    Almost from morning 10-00am to around evening 6 I roamed around the place.
    Their charade ended when my husband messaged me (since I was declining his calls) telling that he was with the police and all the calls were fraud.
    Around 3pm my husband received a call from these scamsters supposedly from my phone number telling that his wife was with them and if he did not pay the amount(again via some gift cards) they would kill me.
    He hung up and called the cops who then took his statements and came to me near albertsons super market. By this time the fraudsters stopped calling me.

    Some reasons I believed them:
    Showing authentic immigration forms like AR-11 and giving authentic phone numbers. The mailbox also mentioned i had reached the US immigration.
    Authoritative tone and giving my details like my home address perfectly
    Making me delete whassup as a security precaution
    Telling that gift cards are also used for raising bail.

    Major red flags which i only focused on after everything:
    . Asking for gift cards with their activation numbers
    . Having extreme patience even when my phone got switched off multiple times due low battery. They waited patiently every time.
    Changing the bail amount from 1999USD to 4000 USD since they knew I had that much amount with me. They threatened me that my accounts will be freezed.

    Some Actions we have taken:
    Locked our credit reports and will be visiting the bank tommorrow(Though I withdrew the amount from my account on my own)
    Lodged a police complaint .
    Spoke to my husband's company and immigration attorney.

    Lessons Learnt
    . Keep the head clear and understand that something is fishy when they accuse you of weird things. Failure to submit certain information will not be leading 250,000 USD fine.
    . Contact the authorities if it is not normal. Like the fraudsters told me cops will come to arrest me. I should have told him I will wait for the cops instead of panicking .

    Some Thoughts
    I am trying not to beat myself too much about it as analyzing always does not happen when we are in a high pressure situation but yes I am feeling extremely foolish in this whole fiasco and will take some time for me to recover completely.

    Please do let me know if anybody had similar experiences and have some inputs for me. People staying in the US for long time can also guide me.

    PS: Moderators I am not sure if this is right forum please help to direct me to the right forum
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2022
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  2. Thoughtful

    Thoughtful Gold IL'ite

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    Very sorry to hear this, but thankfully you and your family are all okay.

    One thing to consider is to get a good shredder and shred all the papers with your personal details instead of throwing in the trash. A lot of places will ask for information from SSN to DOB, address etc ( though they don't need ). Always ask why and pushback. Never give your SSN and tell them that you forgot.

    Also, don't actively respond to phone calls even if it comes from IRS. You be the one calling others ( getting the number from an authentic source ).

    Good luck!
     
  3. MalStrom

    MalStrom IL Hall of Fame

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    This is a common scam tactic. It used to be people calling claiming they were from the IRS and that there was an arrest warrant for you immediately if you did not pay up. The authorities busted a ring based in Mumbai that was the locus of this scam. The fraudsters have shifted tactics since then.
    My DH got that fake IRS threatening call way back in 2015. He became scared but handed the phone to me. I became suspicious as soon as I heard the Indian accent and weird way of talking on the other end. I immediately hung up the phone and called the actual IRS.
    The agent at the IRS told me that the initial contact from government agencies will almost always be in the form of a letter. And she said that they will never ask anyone for money, credit cards or gift cards over the phone. If you have any doubts, she said to immediately hang up the phone and call the relevant agency directly.
    In the US if cops want to arrest someone they will never announce it in advance by calling you unless it has been negotiated with a lawyer. They will just show up with warrants and take people into custody. They will have to read you the Miranda rights and you have the right to immediately ask for a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer they will have to provide you with a public defender.
    These scamsters will spoof phone numbers so it looks genuine. Now that you are warned don’t ever engage them in any kind of exchange. Immediately hang up the phone and report the details to your local police on the non-emergency line.
    Don’t beat yourself up for initially believing them. These people are savvy and have fooled a lot of people who are usually very astute.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2022
  4. sarvantaryamini

    sarvantaryamini Gold IL'ite

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    Please disconnect all calls when you are not familiar with the number. 90% of them are scam calls. Half of them claim they are from some charity agency. They put on a fake accent and sometimes demand money like they were entitled to it. Makes one doubt the whole charity business. The rest are telemarketing calls. If it is a genuine person they will leave a voicemail with proper details. Not like these phony people.
     
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  5. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan Finest Post Winner

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    :hello: @sunnysideup
    A suspicion should arise the moment something out of character happens. Your brilliant DH guessed it correctly that you were in a fix as u had not responded to his repeated calls throughout the day. He is smart in assessing that you were in some catch22 situation and rightly messaged you in good time that retrieved & provided you a kind of relief.

    2. I had faced numerous situations akin to yours. Many such situations one has got to counter question and tell the call is being recorded. Your approach to strangers’ call ought to be always with suspicion.

    3. When card got entangled in ATM Machine I was alarmed .I had no mobile. A stranger entered ATM booth offered help. But that was the trick.
    I narrated my plight in
    Chess With My Pin

    Thanks for sharing and am sharing it in my WhatsApp group (USA) to be cautious about pesky calls.
    Best wishes
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2022
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  6. Laks09

    Laks09 Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    @sunnysideup - I am so sorry you had to go through this. It’s happened to the best of us so please calm down. You are ok and so is your family and that’s all that matters.

    I really admire your current attitude.
    You are new to the country and got flustered. This is a harsh lesson but it is a lesson. Don’t let this define the rest of your stay in the country.

    I really think you are doing well considering the situation. You’ve composed yourself enough to write things down clearly. You’ve also forewarned others about this. That’s really good of you!

    Once I got a call on my landline from Discover credit cards. I never pick up unknown callers but for whatever reason I did. They had some questions about my recent credit card application. They were doubtful of its authenticity because of a mismatched answer. It got flagged. Since we are discover card holders they had our home number and gave me a call. The best part is I hadn’t applied for any card. The rep went on to tell me that this was the second application from me. They have already issued a card. My heart skipped a beat when I found the balance on that one. They asked me to immediately hang up and call all the three credit bureaus. After that, the rest of the week was a haze. There were multiple cards from various banks. I had to go to the police station and report the identity theft. I had to call each of the banks and cancel the cards. I was pissed off with my bank which I had used for 16 years because they issued a cc to the fraudster. My husband was out of the country to add to my dilemma. It took a while to get all of that closed and out of my credit reports. I had to put a freeze on my credit report for a couple of years after that to remediate everything. The good thing that came out of it all was that I started checking on our credit histories from time to time. I also got lifelock for us. After the first call, I kept getting calls from all of the cards that I had blocked claiming I was calling them back to get back my card. The only reason they started calling me directly on my phone was because I tipped them off. So there is someone out there who has all of my information. Kind of creeps me out!

    I thought it was all behind me when a couple of years later, money starts going out of our primary bank account. The bank never sent us an email because it was in the 200-400 range. We happened to catch it because there were Walmart purchases done on days we were on vacation. We later found out it was some sort of cash back scheme. We had to close our bank accounts and again go through life lock to see if anything else was off. Again the bank’s fraud division had to call and help us out.
    I usually pay close attention to bank statements and cc statements. I always check with my family as to where did you spend this 20 bucks or that 50. Even with all that this skipped my radar. I kept thinking the first time I saw it, it was my husband going and buying random things. It’s when he saw it and asked me that we realized it wasn’t us at all. We still don’t know how those transactions were made but the bank guys told me to not use my debit card for things like gas and grocery. To always use a credit card because they have better fraud prevention methods. Apparently the bank gives us only 90 days to raise an alert but credit cards have more of a leeway. Since then, I don’t use my debit card anywhere.

    I’ve been here long enough to know that these things happen. I still didn’t take too many preventative measures until it happened to me. We didn’t lose money but lost a lot of sleep over these things. So now we do basic things - don’t give checks to too many people, don’t use debit cards, check life lock monthly, put checks on credit histories - to name a few.

    This is hard for anyone. Especially the thought that someone knows everything about you. But don’t worry too much. Fraudsters rarely come in physical contact with their victim. You are doing all the right things by filing police reports, going to the bank and talking to them and also thinking about what not to do when such a situation arises.

    Take care and go easy on yourself. It happens!
     
  7. sunnysideup

    sunnysideup Silver IL'ite

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    Thanks for your kind words. We are in fact extremely careful and do shred our personal info. Thankfully I did not share my ssn or any bank pin. I am in the midst of the job search in this new country and uploaded my resumes in different jobsites. My DH feels this where they would have gathered my address and phone numbers.
    Anyways I am not responding to any unknown numbers and even If i receive as per your suggestion I will choose to call back instead of acting merely on their instructions.
     
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  8. sunnysideup

    sunnysideup Silver IL'ite

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    So glad you were able to figure out what to do and not fall into their trap. The cops did mention to me that we will not receive any phone calls about an impending arrest. Also for civil cases like this immigration issues initial contact will be a letter. Even when the cops do come in we have to verify our details like in our case if it was visa fraud the cops obviously should have visa numbers, passport numbers etc.
    The phone number indeed looked authentic, the call was supposed to be from ICE. That was the main reason i got fooled.
    I am moving ahead with a valuable lesson. Thank you very much for sharing your experience.
     
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  9. sunnysideup

    sunnysideup Silver IL'ite

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    Thanks sarvantaryamini. I also do not usually pick any unknown numbers somehow randomly picked this one. However now I am being extra cautious.
     
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  10. sunnysideup

    sunnysideup Silver IL'ite

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    Yes my DH sensed something was wrong when i did not pick the calls and he just could not understand where i would go alone in this new country. His message did end my ordeal and was a massive relief. The worst part was in this whole fiasco i became so blank that i did not contact my only support system. He too went through a tense situation without being able to contact me. By god's grace we are safe now.
    I loved reading your Chess With My Pin. Your butter fingers saved you indeed. Thanks for sharing.
     
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