Washington phone scams are fraudulent activities done through telecommunications services like phone calls, robocalls, text messages, and emails that aim to steal valuable information and money from people. The Washington State Attorney General is charged with tackling phone scams in the state, and punishing individuals found guilty of carrying out these scams. One way the Attorney General's Office does this is by regularly publishing scam alerts on its website. Residents of the state can also subscribe to the Attorney General's Office's mailing list to directly receive these alerts via email.
There are various methods that con artists use to carry out phone scams. Some of the most common methods reported in the state of Washington are:
- Telemarketing scams, where scammers pretend to be legitimate telemarketers;
- Charity scams, where scammers pretend to represent charitable organizations;
- Fake check scams, where the scammer sends a counterfeit check to a person and asks for money in return;
- Advanced fee fraud scams, where the scammer pretends to be a representative of a foreign government or foreign business;
- Foreign lottery and sweepstakes scams, where a victim is contacted with information on how to select winning lottery numbers and asked to pay a fee;
- Relative in need scams, where the scammer poses as a relative in trouble and requires urgent assistance. This scam is also known as the Grandparent Scam;
- Investment scams, where the scammer contacts a potential target with an investment opportunity that is totally bogus;
- Living trust scams, where the scammer convinces a potential target to purchase a living trust and charges a high commission for doing so;
- Identity theft scams, where the scammer pretends to be a representative of a government agency, business, or financial institution.
What are Washington Telemarketing Scams?
Telemarketing is a legitimate tool used by businesses to sell their products. However, some scammers also use this as an avenue to defraud unsuspecting individuals. These scammers may market a wide range of products, ranging from magazine subscriptions to drug supplements. One way of differentiating between a legitimate telemarketing call and a scam telemarketing call is if the caller tries to pressure you into making up your mind concerning their offer. Also, suppose the caller refuses to mail you further information about the product, offers to send a courier to receive the product's payment, or asks for your credit card number. In that case, the telemarketing call is likely a scam.
What are Washington Charity Scams?
In charity scams, the scammer pretends to be a fundraiser representing a charity organization and tries to defraud potential victims. To avoid falling for this scam, residents are advised to directly contact the charity organization before making donations. Washington requires charity organizations and commercial fundraisers operating within it to register with the Secretary of State's office. This office allows members of the public search access information on registered charity organizations through its website. Always check to make sure that an organization is properly registered before making any donations.
What are Washington Wire Transfer Scams?
In Washington wire transfer scams, con artists defraud their targets by falsely presenting themselves as someone else. The scammer may claim to be a buyer or seller of an advertised product, a government agency or business representative, or a potential employer. Regardless of the scenario presented by the scammer, they always ask their targets to wire money to them. An example of a wire transfer scam is the fake check scam, where the scam artist sends the target a counterfeit check as payment for goods or services that is more than the original amount discussed, then asks the target to wire the excess cash back.
The main way to avoid falling for these scams is by never wiring money to an individual you do not have a personal relationship with.
What are Washington Relative in Need/Grandparent Scams?
Here, scammers contact a potential target and pretend to be a relative, usually a grandchild, in trouble. The scammers may also pose as the relative's attorney or a law enforcement officer making the call on behalf of the relative. These scammers mostly ask for money transfers via Western Union or MoneyGram. The best way to avoid falling for this scam is by asking the caller questions that can only be answered by the real person the scammer claims to be or represent. Another way is by contacting a close friend or relative of the person the scammer claims to be to verify the story.
What are Washington Identity Theft Scams?
In Washington identity theft scams, scammers pretend to be representatives of government agencies, staff of financial institutions and well-known businesses, or even relatives of their potential targets and try to obtain sensitive personal and financial information from them. Targets are usually contacted via phone calls, texts, or email. When they make contact by phone, they use caller ID spoofing to make their calls look like they are coming from legitimate sources.
You can avoid falling victim to an identity theft scam by never revealing sensitive information over the phone unless it is to a caller that you trust. Another way to avoid falling victim to these scams is by never clicking on links in email and text messages from a source you are unsure of or in messages that ask you for personal banking information.
What are Washington Living Trust Scams?
Living trusts allow people to control the management and distribution of their assets in the event of their death. In Washington living trust scams, scammers try to obtain money from their potential victims by convincing them to buy a living trust and then charging them a high commission for it. Sometimes, the scammers convince their targets to create a living trust and then use the opportunity to sell them investments for the trust, which leads to high commissions for the scammer. Residents of Washington are advised to always get proper legal advice from an estate planning attorney before signing any documents related to living trusts.
How Do I Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Phone Scam?
There are various ways through which con artists try to carry out phone scams on unsuspecting Washingtonians. To avoid falling victim to these scams, you should consider taking the following steps:
- Decrease the number of unsolicited calls you receive by registering your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry;
- Be wary of unknown calls or texts that originate from overseas;
- Always perform a reverse phone number lookup when you receive suspicious calls;
- Be wary of callers that pressure you into taking immediate action;
- Be wary of callers that ask you to pay a processing fee before you can receive a product;
- Always verify with the appropriate government agency if you are contacted by an individual that claims to represent them. Government agencies always have their contact details available on their websites;
- Never disclose your credit/debit card information to unknown individuals;
- Be wary of individuals that ask you to wire them money, especially if it is through Western Union or MoneyGram;
- Always consult with friends and attorneys if possible, before committing to any investment opportunities;
- Always inform your financial institution if you suspect that your personal banking information may have been compromised;
- File a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and with the Federal Trade Commission if you have been contacted by a phone scammer