Iowa phone scams are nefarious acts of crooked individuals carried out over the phone with the intention of stealing money or sensitive information from Iowans. These scammers use phone services, such as robocalls and text messages, to steal. They will say anything during a conversation to get your guard down, turn the pressure up or even scare you, just to take something valuable from you. Phone lookup applications can help uncover the true identities of scam callers.
Iowa has several teams of state and local agencies dedicated to fighting phone scams. Knowing which phone scam to report to each agency is the first step. If you have been involved in an investment scheme, such as pyramid or Ponzi schemes, contact the Iowa Insurance Division or call 877-955-1212. If you have been a victim of identity theft or an IRS phone scam, contact the Iowa Attorney General’s Office or call 888-777-4590. Contact the Iowa Department of Aging or call 800-532-3213 if you are a victim of a grandparent scam or financial exploitation.
The Iowa fraud fighters and the Office of the Iowa Attorney General list common phone scams experienced by Iowans on their website. These include:
- Medicare scams: scammers call Iowans posing as Medicare staff and offering an updated Medicare card. By obtaining the Medicare number and personal financial information in the process, they can obtain Medicare services or products charged to the target’s account.
- Work-at-home scams: scammers promise a big income and opportunities that will their targets work from home if they buy starter kits or pay for certifications
- Mortgage rescue scams: Fraudsters guarantee their targets a loan modification if they pay a fee or if you pay your mortgage payments directly to the scammer
- Home repair scams: After damaging weather events, such as a hurricane or a flood, scammers call targets and pretend to be contractors or home repair specialists while selling home evaluations and repairs in affected areas. They disappear without providing repair services once payments are made
- Grandparent scams: Usually targeted at the elderly, the scammer pretends to be a grandchild calling from a foreign country in desperate need of money to get out of urgent trouble.
- IRS scams: The scammer poses as an IRS staff and threatens to arrest or jail the target if a specific amount of money is not paid.
- Computer tech scams: the con artist poses as a technical support staff requesting remote access to your computer to fix a virus or download software. The access is later used to steal personal information.
- Charity scams: the scammer poses as an owner or a representative of a charity organization and asks for donations for charitable causes.
- Utility phone scams: the scammer claims to represent your local power company and threaten to shut off electricity unless you make immediate payment through insecure payment methods.
- Telemarketing scams: scammers imitate legitimate telemarketers to pressure targets into providing personal information
What are Iowa IRS Scams?
In an IRS scam, the caller poses as a staff of the Inland Revenue Service, sometimes even calling out their own IRS badge number and part of the target's social security number to sound legitimate. These scammers may even employ spoofing to make their caller ID appear like it is coming from the IRS on your caller ID display.
IRS impostors accuse their target of owing taxes and threaten court actions or immediate arrest if they do not pay immediately. They tell targets to use a credit card, debit card, or prepaid debit cards, such as Green Dot card. Once payment is made, the funds go into the scammer's account and not the IRS'.
What are Iowa Computer Tech Scams?
In a tech support scam, the caller poses as a computer technical support employee, maybe even identifying as a representative or employee of a reputable tech company, such as Windows, Microsoft, or Apple. The scammer seeks remote access to your computer and may also request personal information.
In an attempt to gain access to your computer, the scammer may try to convince you to download software that allows remote access to your computer. Such access enables the caller to install software like an antivirus or a tune-up program that is not required or is available for free. The scammer charges you for installing the computer programs and a professional fee.
While trying to "fix" your computer, the scammer may install spyware to potentially retrieve your personal information stored on the computer, like financial information, passwords, or any other personal information. Worse still, the scammer can make your computer vulnerable to future attacks or even damage it.
What are Iowa Grandparent Scams?
Iowa grandparent scams are typically targeted at older people. Scammers involved in this type of phone scams try to play on the emotions and fears of aged targets. They claim to be a grandchild with an emergency need for cash. The scammers try to convince their victims to quickly wire huge amounts of money or provide a credit, debit, or prepaid card number to help pay for a sudden personal crisis, such as leaving a foreign country, medical emergency, bail money, or car accident.
These scams can be quite personalized at times. The criminals glean personal information from public sites such as Facebook or Instagram. They may also trick their victims into revealing the information, including names and locations. Funds are usually requested to be paid to a foreign account and are nearly impossible to trace. The scammers often plead for secrecy from the grandparent, saying they would be too embarrassed if other members of the family found out.
What are Iowa Utility Phone Scams?
In a utility phone scam, the caller claims to represent your local power company and threatens to shut off electricity unless you make an urgent payment. Typically, the scammer claims that you owe your utility company an overdue balance and must make an electronic payment within a few hours or the company will shut off your power. It is a common practice among utility phone scammers to ask the victim to go to a local store that sells reloadable direct cards, such as a Green Dot prepaid debit card, and load it with money. The scammer requests the card number to obtain the funds.
This type of scam is generally operated by criminals from foreign countries. These criminals manipulate caller ID using spoofing technology to appear as if the calls originate from the utility company in your local area. Once the scammer successfully obtains a payment through a prepaid debit card, it is near impossible to recover lost funds.
What are Iowa Medicare Scams?
Here, scammers call Iowans when it is time to renew or enroll in Medicare, Medicaid, or other government health plans. They pose to enroll residents in inappropriate or false coverage plans and collect your personal financial information in the process. The victims may later be charged for services, procedures, or products they did not receive.
During a phone call, Medicare scammers may inform their victims of their wish to provide them with a new or updated Medicare card. They may request your Medicare number and personal financial information which will later be used for service or products that will be falsely charged to your account.
How Do I Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Phone Scam?
- Do not trust the name or number on your caller-ID display. With spoofing, scammers can now falsify caller-ID information.
- Do not divulge any sensitive information such as passwords, PINs, or credit or debit card details to anyone regardless of who they claim to be. Be aware that it is not ethical for government agencies to request login details or any other sensitive information over a phone call
- Use reverse phone lookup services to verify the authenticity of a phone number or the name of the caller. You can check online to see if a caller ID information has been reported in connection to a scam.
- If you answer a call and you hear prerecorded messages, hang up immediately. Do not follow any prompts or press any buttons or numbers. Doing so will only indicate to the scammer that your phone number is active and may lead to scam calls.
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. It helps reduce the number of unsolicited calls
- Sign up to receive free phone scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission.
- Report scammers to the FTC or any local law enforcement agency