Most of the 30 people in attendance Thursday at Peabody Township Library for a presentation by Attorney General Derek Schmidt on scams and identity theft seemed to be fairly knowledgeable about how thieves go about their tasks.
Schmidt reviewed scams that seemingly involve the Internal Revenue Service and companies that want victims to pay a sum of money to receive a prize they have won. He gave examples of calls from “credit card services” wanting card numbers to review an account for a better rate or to consolidate card balances, as well as other attempts to separate victims from their money or their personal information.
Schmidt also encouraged the group of mostly senior citizens to do something a little different when dealing with someone interested in stealing money or information from them.
“This would probably horrify your mothers,” he said. “But the best thing you can do is hang up on them. Do not worry about someone thinking you are rude. Go ahead, just hang up.”
He explained that by engaging their victims in conversation, the scammers could come across as friendly and neighborly. On the other hand, by taking a brusque or threatening approach, they might frighten their victim into revealing personal or financial information.
“If you hang up, you have given them nothing,” he said. “The IRS will never call you — unless you have arranged for them to do so. Your credit card company will not ask for your card number — they already have it. Companies like Microsoft will not call you and tell you that you have a virus and they need your password to get into your computer and sweep the virus. If you are worried about a call like that, hang up on them and call your tech service.”
Several people in the audience shared instances of scamming attempts, indicating that small-town America is not exempt from such activity.
Schmidt said his office has recovered between $9 and $10 million dollars for Kansas victims.
“But there is a lot that is just un-recoverable,” he said. “When the scammers are out of the country, it is nearly impossible to catch them.”
To report an attempted scam or identity theft, the Kansas Consumer Protection Hot Line phone number is (800) 432-2310.