You know the feeling. Your phone buzzes, you check who it is, and you sigh. Spam. It’s a nuisance at best and dangerous at worst.
In its 2023 Robocall Investigation Report, Reston-based Transaction Network Services said Americans received 70 billion unwanted calls in 2022, and the top three national scams tried to take people’s money.
Virginia followed that trend. “I would say it’s universal across the country,” says John Haraburda, TNS’ director of product management. “Virginia is right in line with what we see in other states.” Here’s how the top scams operate.
Have you received a text from someone claiming to have the wrong number? Scammers utilize this strategy as a way to contact potential targets and engage in conversation. The end goal is to convince the victim to invest in what the scammer says is cryptocurrency, but is actually nothing. “This social engineering is a way to gain trust with a person, establish you as a trustworthy person when you’re really trying to defraud them,” Haraburda says. “That’s the concept … you fatten the pig up before you slaughter.”
This con involves scammers posing as Amazon sales representatives who try to convince their targets to give them remote access to their accounts, under the guise of receiving refunds. This lets the scammer see your personal information and credit card numbers. “The idea is that, ‘Oh, well, you bought something for $1,000, but if you act now, I’m going to give you $1,500 back.’ … They’re trying to find people who will have that level of trust … maybe they’re not as aware and suspicious of the average inbound caller,” says Haraburda.
Fake Tax Compromise
Some scammers use fear to exploit potential targets. They may pose as tax agents contacting people who owe lots of back taxes. “They’re going to say, ‘You owe $10,000. We’re going to put an immediate lien on your house. I’m going to deduct money from your paycheck, if you don’t pay me,’” Haraburda says. The scammer may ask for up-front fees or try to get personal information to use for identity theft.
This story originally ran in our June issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine.