Illinois phone scams are illicit activities perpetrated over phone calls which involve trying to steal money or personal information from Illinois residents. These scams may be perpetrated by regular phone calls, robocalls, and text messages. The scammers often make unfounded promises, such as opportunities to buy products, invest money, get free grants, lotteries, or obtain free vouchers or product trials. At other times, scammers may call with threats of lawsuits or jail if you do not pay up.
The Illinois Attorney General's Office provides regular consumer alerts and awareness of current and popular phone scams carried out in the state. Common phone scams in Illinois include:
- Vitamins and health product scam: where a sales pitch may include a prize offer to entice you to pay a huge fee for products that are not worth as much
- Travel package scam: where a caller markets a free or low-cost vacation offer which would eventually cost more. The caller may also disappear with the money after the victim makes the initial down-payment.
- Prize offer scam: where a scammer offers a free prize that may only be received after paying tax or freight costs or giving out a credit number.
- Investment scam: where a scammer promises a high return on an investment in a get-rich-quick scheme. Such schemes eventually turn out to be worthless or worth much less than paid for.
- Charity scam: where a scammer claims to represent a reputable charity organization and solicits donations which eventually goes to a phony charity
- Recovery scam: where a scammer calls you to help recover lost sums in a previous scam. Usually, the person making this offer is affiliated with the people who perpetrated the initial scam.
What are Illinois IRS Scams?
IRS phone scam perpetrators claim to be employees of the IRS and use fictitious names and identification badge numbers during phone calls. They may even quote the last four digits of victims’ social security numbers to appear legitimate. A common trick used by IRS scammers in Illinois is informing victims that they are subjects of reviews by the criminal investigative branch of the IRS.
IRS scammers lure victims into making payments through pre-loaded debit cards or wire transfers. These con artists want victims to share their personal information and then steal their identities to file fraudulent tax returns or force taxpayers to wire money they do not owe. An IRS scammer may turn hostile by insulting or threatening to suspend the victim's driving license or arrest or deport them.
The IRS is aware of the illicit activities of scammers and warns that these individuals may sound very convincing. However, the IRS website lists several tell-tale signs of an IRS scam. The IRS affirms that it only asks for payment with a written mailed bill. It does not require taxpayers to only pay through a prepaid debit card and does not ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone. Threatening to have people arrested for defaulting on tax payment is not how the IRS works. Direct correspondence with the IRS can be made at 1-800-829-1040.
What are Illinois Tech Support Scams?
Tech support scam typically begins when an unsolicited pop-up appears without warning on the target’s computer screen. The pop-up informs them that their computer has been infected by viruses, trojans, or other malware. The information includes a phone number (possibly toll-free) that the victim can call to resolve the problem.
Upon calling the phone number, the scammer convinces the victim to allow them to have remote access to the computer. If this is granted, the scammer confirms their bogus diagnosis and may surreptitiously install malware on the PC to gain future access to its contents or steal sensitive information from it. In addition, the scammer may ask the victim to install a tune-up software, anti-virus software, or any such application for a significant one-time or subscription fee.
What are Illinois Voice Phishing Scams?
Voice phishing is a kind of phone scam where the scammer tries to trick the victim into giving out sensitive or personal information. The aim is usually to steal their money or identity or both. Voice phishing may employ the use of automated voice simulation tools to impersonate a business or person that the victim trusts. With Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), scammers can make several hundreds of calls at a time and even falsify caller ID information by spoofing.
Voice phishers often prey on victims' emotions such as fear or greed to lure them into revealing information like passwords and credit card details. These scammers may even gather information about targets from social media or the internet to sound legitimate to victims. If the target does not answer the call, a voice phisher may leave a voice message asking that the call be returned at a convenient time.
What are Illinois Emergency Scams?
Emergency scams are usually targeted at grandparents. Here, the scammer calls or sends a message claiming to be a grandchild in trouble and urges the grandparent to wire money immediately to help with an emergency. Such emergencies typically involve getting out of jail, paying a hospital bill, and returning from a foreign country. Emergency scammers try to play on the emotions of the elderly in order to rob them.
The caller may not always play the grandchild card, sometimes, they can also pretend to be a long-lost acquaintance. In an emergency scam, the caller usually requests that the money be sent through a money transfer company or via gift cards. The scammer may claim to be embarrassed by the situation and ask the victim to keep the assistance secret from other members of the family.
How Do I Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Phone Scam?
Anyone can be targeted by phone scammers. The key to avoiding phone scams is learning about them. Here are a few tips and tell-tale signs of phone scams worth knowing:
- Do not believe the Caller ID on your phone's display. Scammers can now use spoofing technology to make a fake caller ID information look like one you know or trust. If any caller calls to ask for personal information or money, hang up. Only call back if after careful consideration.
- Do not pay upfront for a promised reward. Scammers may ask you to pay a tax or freight fee before claiming a free prize. It is common practice for such scammers to take the money and disappear after receiving payment.
- Consider your method of payment. Wiring funds through services like Western Union, MoneyPak, Reloadit, gift cards, and MoneyGram is risky and may be impossible to get your money back. Making payments with credit cards, which have significant fraud protection built in, is safer. Government agencies and reputable companies will not ask you to pay using these channels.
- Talk to someone about offers received from strangers over the phone. Scammers typically want you to make decisions in a hurry. Before giving up your personal information or money, slow down, research the request, and talk to someone you trust.
- Hang up on robocalls. If you pick up a phone call and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up the call immediately and report it to the FTC. Do not press any button to speak to a live agent. That could lead to more robocalls.
- Carry out your own research. If anyone calls you from a company or offers a product or service you are not entirely sure about, type in the name with "review", "complaint", or "scam" in a search engine to see if there are reported scams for such offers. Use a reverse phone lookup search to identify strangers calling with unknown and familiar numbers.
- Sign up for free scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online. The latest tips and advice about scams are sent to your inbox.
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. This can help you reduce the number of unwanted calls.